Feds to consider penning in caribou

EDMONTON — Penning wild caribou in the oilsands region is a recovery option for the species that should be considered, says a federal document that echoes a recent industry-funded study.

EDMONTON — Penning wild caribou in the oilsands region is a recovery option for the species that should be considered, says a federal document that echoes a recent industry-funded study.

The federal caribou strategy released last week says “indirect predator management (e.g. penning of boreal caribou)” should be given high priority to prevent the highly endangered herds from vanishing.

The idea follows a study released in July by the Oilsands Leadership Initiative that recommended fencing off at least 1,500 square kilometres to protect caribou from predators such as wolves.

A large fenced predator exclosure “has potential benefits and should be considered for implementation as part of an integrated boreal caribou management program in northeast Alberta,” the study said.

It concluded the idea was feasible and 43 technical experts met last May to flesh out how it might be implemented.

They decided an area of at least 1,500 square kilometres would be fenced off for at least 40 years and populated by about 120 to 150 caribou. Wolves and deer would be kept out of the area to minimize predation and competition.

The experts concluded the fenced-off area would become a “lifeboat” for Alberta’s caribou herds and could provide surplus calves to herds struggling to survive in the face of continued industrial development.

They added the caribou pen would have to be part of an integrated strategy for saving the herds, some of which are declining so rapidly they are expected to disappear within 20 years.

“This … group has spearheaded the idea from just a concept into something that’s much more concrete,” said Stan Boutin, a leading authority on woodland caribou, who was at the May meeting.

“The government was reticent to start with. They’ve come a long ways.”

Vincent Saubestre, head of the industry group, said the proposal is one of several management options being studied by oilsands developers. It has now been sent to a larger group of energy companies to develop a possible location and cost for the pen.

“There is some enthusiasm in terms of getting the report to the next stage,” he said.

The province has been involved in the proposal and is considering it, Saubestre said.

Boutin, who is based at the University of Alberta, said the idea of penning wild animals to preserve them is “a pretty big conceptual shift.” But in the face of governments that seem unwilling to limit any of the energy development that’s destroying caribou habitat, it’s a shift that Boutin said he has come to support.

“I’m surprised at myself, but I’m as excited as hell about the whole option,” he said.

“I was pretty despondent about a year ago. I did not see any solution to this whole challenge with the social pressures, the economic pressures that were coming to bear in Alberta.

“I thought about this big fenced area and thought, ’Why the hell not?’ In some ways, this fence solves many problems. It could work for the caribou.”

Reaction to Ottawa’s caribou recovery plan has been mixed. Some praise the plan’s commitment to habitat restoration. Others say it gives industry and government years to decide how the plan will operate on specific caribou ranges to keep the herds from disappearing.

Boutin said the final draft released late Friday afternoon before a holiday weekend is, if anything, weaker than a draft proposed last spring.

“It is definitely ’watered down’ from the initial draft.” Boutin points out the plan doesn’t allow for industry development to be stopped if a caribou range is less than 65 per cent intact. All that’s required for development to proceed is a “vague plan” which could take decades to implement.

Just Posted

Celebrating 4-20 in Red Deer

For years, 4-20 was a time to protest for the legalization of… Continue reading

Optimism remains for Red Deer hospital expansion

Red Deer’s incoming UCP MLAs both have been strong supporters of expansion

Sport of axe throwing growing in Red Deer

True North Axe Throwing wants sport to be ‘Canadian version of darts’

RDC cancels championship-winning golf program due to tight finances

Short season, small number of student golfers were also considerations

WATCH: An ‘Eggstemely Fun Easter’ at Bower Place in Red Deer

Bower Place mall made sure Red Deer families were able to have… Continue reading

Dozens hurt in collapse of deck during wedding celebration in Langley, B.C.

LANGLEY, B.C. — Police say dozens of people were injured, some critically,… Continue reading

No winning ticket for Friday night’s $25 million Lotto Max jackpot

TORONTO — No winning ticket was sold for the $25.5 million jackpot… Continue reading

Uber driver charged in two sexual assault investigations: Toronto police

Toronto police say an Uber driver is facing sexual assault charges in… Continue reading

PEI Green party candidate Josh Underhay and son killed in canoeing accident

CHARLOTTETOWN — With only a few days before voters were to go… Continue reading

Egyptians vote on changes that would extend el-Sissi’s rule

CAIRO — Egyptians cast their ballots Saturday on the first of three… Continue reading

Ex-Marine arrested in North Korea embassy attack in Madrid

WASHINGTON — A man suspected of involvement in a mysterious dissident group’s… Continue reading

New bout of heavy fighting in Yemen kills dozens

SANAA, Yemen — Yemeni officials say heavy fighting in Yemen’s southern Dhale… Continue reading

Most Read