The five mountain caribou from the now two extinct southern B.C. herds were released into the wild earlier this month north of Revelstoke.
The caribou are from the southern Selkirk and Purcell mountains and were relocated earlier this year to the maternal pens along Highway 23N. Those herds are now locally extinct and there are no more caribou in the lower 48 U.S. states.
Another caribou calf was also released with the five.
“She’s now where she belongs,” said Cory Legebokow, Land and Resource Specialist with the BC Caribou Recovery Program at Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations.
|The lone caribou calf named Grace looks on in curiosity at caribou from the southern herds. This photo was taken when the caribou were transported to the maternity pens earlier this year. They were in the process of waking up. (Photo by B.C.’s Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development)|
Last year, wildlife cameras captured footage of bears chasing a lone baby caribou. Biologists named it Grace, after a mountain where her mother came from.
Her mother died last year and to help Grace escape predation the gates to a caribou maternity pen were reopened and the calf sought refuge inside.
The pens were empty at the time, but were part of the Revelstoke Caribou Rearing in the Wild project which is now complete. The government is reviewing the data from the project to determine its success and future use. They said a report with findings should be published later this year.
Until the five other caribou arrived, Grace lived in the pen alone.
The released caribou have met up with the Columbia North herd said Legebokow. The Columbia North herd, which is near Revelstoke was approximately 210 in 1994 and approximately 120 in 2011. The B.C. government said the herd’s population is now stable.
According to the B.C. government, caribou in the province have declined from 40,000 in the early 1900s to less than 19,000 today.
Legebokow said the released caribou have been collared and they will monitored.
“We will wait to see what the future holds for them.”