A fence (shown) is under construction in B.C.’s West Kootenay that Indigenous groups in Canada and the United States hope will help the survival of a rare species of woodland caribou. The eight-hectare pen will protect about six cows and their calves from predators during the early states of the calves lives. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Pen project aims to protect tiny, endangered herd of south Selkirk caribou

VICTORIA — Indigenous groups on both sides of the Canadian and U.S. border are working with the British Columbia government and others to save a critically endangered species of woodland caribou.

The Kalispel Tribe in Washington state is among those leading a project building a caribou maternal pen on land owned by the Nature Conservancy of Canada in the mountains of B.C.’s West Kootenay.

Tribe spokesman Mike Lithgow says the eight-hectare pen is being built where it’s expected about six south Selkirk mountain caribou will give birth later this year.

The pen is 4.57 metres high, has electric fencing on its exterior and is covered with a fabric that acts as a visual barrier for predators.

Lithgow says the cows will be caught using a net gun from a helicopter and then relocated to the pen to protect them from predators that have killed as many as three-quarters of the offspring in the past.

The tiny herd of caribou, listed as among the most endangered mammals in North America, primarily roam high-mountain, old-growth forests in northeastern Washington state and northern Idaho.

Lithgow says they will have two shepherds with the animals during their three-month stay in the pen. They’ll also be supplying the caribou with the lichen they usually eat, and will transition them to reindeer pellets because there isn’t enough food inside the pen.

“It’s a drastic measure. Ideally we wouldn’t be doing this of course, but with such few number it was really the only thing that could be agreed upon by the professionals.”

Lithgow says the Kalispel traditionally hunted the caribou and the animals are culturally significant to them. The tribe has been working for the last few decades to help the recovery of the herd, he says.

Lithgow says the annual cost for the three-year project is US$156,000.

The B.C. government says the pen represents one part of the recovery effort and collard caribou will be tracked throughout the year to assess their survival rates. Cows and possibly new yearlings will again be captured and relocated to the pen for the next calving season the following March and April, it says in a news release.

This is latest caribou maternal pen in B.C. and builds on the success of a similar project near Revelstoke that has protected the Columbia north herd since 2014, stabilizing a once-declining population to about 150 animals. The province says penning in caribou has also increased the size of a herd in the south Peace region.

Just Posted

Red Deer police recover stolen Second World War German army passport, trying to find owner

A rare, Second World War era German passport was recovered by police… Continue reading

Four Red Deer skiers off to Alberta Winter Games

Four young Red Deer skiers are headed to the Alberta Winter Games.… Continue reading

Hurry Hard: Red Deer Oilmen’s Bonspiel starts on Friday

A January tradition in Red Deer, the Oilmen’s Bonspiel takes to the… Continue reading

City Hall briefly evacuated

Carbon monoxide false alarm behind evacuation

Charges laid in home invasion in Maskwacis

Three people injured with stab wounds

WATCH: Marijuana in the Workplace information luncheon held in Red Deer

Central Alberta businesses need to prepare for the legalization of marijuana. That… Continue reading

WATCH: Red Deer city council debates cost-savings versus quality of life

Majority of councillors decide certain services are worth preserving

Got milk? Highway reopened near Millet

A southbound truck hauling milk and cartons collided with a bridge

Stettler’s newest residents overcame fear, bloodshed to come here

Daniel Kwizera, Diane Mukasine and kids now permanent residents

Giddy up: Red Deer to host Canadian Finals Rodeo in 2018

The CFR is expected to bring $20-30 million annually to Red Deer and region

Ice dancers Virtue and Moir to carry flag at Pyeongchang Olympics

Not since Kurt Browning at the 1994 Lillehammer Games has a figure… Continue reading

Beer Canada calls on feds to axe increasing beer tax as consumption trends down

OTTAWA — A trade association for Canada’s beer industry wants the federal… Continue reading

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month