Central Mountain Caribou

Central mountain caribou (formerly part of the northern caribou ecotype) usually live in mountainous terrain, although some herds migrate to low-elevation pine or boreal forest in the winter. There are approximately 200 caribou in the central mountain designatable unit (DU8) in British Columbia. They are distributed among six herds: Moberly, Scott, Burnt Pine, Kennedy Siding, Quintette, and Narraway (Bearhold/Redwillow portion).

The caribou herds in the South Peace region are a combination of the six central mountain caribou herds and the Graham herd from northern mountain caribou. The caribou living in the South Peace region are referred to as the South Peace northern caribou because of their geographic distribution, even though they are two distinct types of caribou.

Decline

These caribou have been in decline since the 1990s. Their decline is a result of habitat loss, fragmentation and alteration, and increased predation associated with various forms of industrial activity. 

For more information on these caribou:

Threatened status

The federal Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) has recommended these caribou be listed as endangered. They have been listed as threatened under the federal Species at Risk Act. The Conservation Data Centre ranks these caribou S3 (special concern, vulnerable to extirpation or extinction) and are on the provincial Blue List. The BC Conservation Framework ranks this population as a priority 2 under goal 2 regarding the prevention of species and ecosystems from becoming at risk.

Governance

A caribou management plan was developed in 2013 with a goal to increase the population to more than 1200 animals within 21 years. 

The plan objectives are to:

1. Protect 90% of identified high elevation winter habitat across the range of South Peace northern caribou:  

  • Protect ≥ 90% of identified high elevation winter habitat in the Graham, Moberly, Burnt Pine, Scott, Kennedy Siding, and Narraway herd ranges; and
  • Protect ≥ 80% of identified high elevation winter habitat in the Quintette herd range.

2. Conduct caribou population management to address non-habitat related threats (e.g., predation) to certain herds.

3. In all ranges, manage the industrial footprint in identified high and low elevation habitats by requiring standardized industry management practices across all industry sectors to reduce or prohibit surface disturbance and habitat alteration, and support long-term sustainable caribou habitat conditions.

4. In all ranges, monitor the compliance and effectiveness of management actions and modify actions accordingly to ensure the population and distribution goal is being achieved.

Under the plan, certain levels of industrial development will continue within the caribou habitat. To ensure that habitat management objectives are achieved, industrial development activities within identified high-elevation winter ranges (HEWR) will require a caribou mitigation and monitoring plan (CMMP).

To support proponents in the development of their CMMPs, a guidance document was developed that identifies specific criteria and principles that proponents should consider in order for development activities to proceed. If all adverse effects on caribou and their habitat cannot be mitigated, proponents will be required to provide habitat and/or financial offsets.

Recovery Management

The following resources provide information about the efforts made to preserve and manage the caribou population.

Habitat Protection

Population Management

Initiatives intended to increase the population of these herds include:

  • Supplemental feeding to enhance reproduction, survival and population growth
  • Maternal penning to provide a predator-free area for mother and child pairs until both are stronger and are able to escape predation
  • Predator control, a short-term emergency measure to reduce the direct predation on these herds

Habitat Description

The caribou primarily live in three habitats, depending on the season. 

High elevation winter range (HEWR)

This habitat type includes windswept alpine ridges and adjacent subalpine forest. It is highly susceptible to fragmentation, loss, and long-term alteration by industrial activities.

High elevation summer range (HESR)

This habitat type includes alpine and subalpine areas used by caribou for calving and summer range. While the HESR covers a larger area, there is a high degree of overlap between the HEWR and the HESR, and as such HESR is subject to the same pressures from industrial activities.

Low elevation winter range (LEWR)

This habitat type includes low-elevation boreal and sub-boreal forests used by Narraway, Quintette and Kennedy Siding caribou in winter. Periodic natural disturbances and some level of landscape modification are compatible with caribou habitat management. However, the level of landscape modification needs to be kept below a sustainable threshold of development. Some areas of the low-elevation winter range were mapped as an ungulate winter range.

Matrix Range

The areas that contribute to the predator-prey system on a caribou range, but are not the main caribou habitat areas, constitute matrix habitat.

Habitat Mapping

Habitat areas have been mapped using the best available data for each herd range including habitat modelling, telemetry data, and elevation criteria. The details of that work can be found in the following reports:

High Elevation Winter Range Habitat Maps

*Note that high elevation winter habitat for the Scott herd was identified using an elevation cut-off at 1200 metres and as such, no report was prepared.

High Elevation Summer Range Habitat Maps

Low Elevation Winter Range Habitat Maps

Only three of the seven South Peace northern caribou herds use the low elevation areas in the winter.

Matrix Range 

Standardized Industry Management Practices

DRAFT Standardized industry management practices (DOCX) to manage the industrial footprint within identified caribou habitats. Although not yet finalized, these provide a comprehensive description of the herds, and includes a wide range of non-regulatory guidelines and information on how to lessen the impact of human activities on caribou, whenever possible.

Share Button