Central Selkirk Caribou Herd

The Central Selkirk herd is now the southern most mountain caribou herd in the world. This herd has experienced dramatic declines over the past 20 years (227 to 25, 89%). Currently an estimated 25 caribou remain. Winter recreation, including heliskiing, cat skiing, and snowmobiling, has been identified as one of the current threats to this herd. Recently this disturbance has been increasing partly because the popularity of snowmobiling has grown over the past decade. Research suggests that disturbance from recreation can result in chronic stress in local caribou and/or displacement of caribou from preferred habitat.  Chronic stress, as indicated by elevated levels of stress hormones, can impact the recruitment rate of local populations.  The risk posed by unmanaged winter recreation has increased on the Central Selkirks herd and requires action as part of the suite of measures being taken under the provincial Caribou Recovery Initiative. Increasing recruitment and maintaining occupancy of high-quality habitat are essential to this herd’s long-term survival

Recovery Efforts

There has been substantial effort to recovery caribou across much of their range and in the Central Selkirk these efforts include:

  • The closure of high elevation habitat to snowmobiling, though in this area the amount of closures have been small (~2.5% of Core Habitat). As of winter 2019/2020, a new approach has been taken using daily caribou locations to determine area closures; 
  • Mitigation of heli ski disturbance by using a similar system as for snowmobiling (i.e. real time caribou locations)
  • Permanent protection of over 86% of core caribou habitat in no timber harvest areas and Provincial Park. 
  • Moratorium on new commercial recreation tenures in high value mountain caribou habitat;

Other recovery options

  • Predator control is an option being explored for this herd
  • Increasing the survival rates of newborn calves via use of maternal penning
  • Augmentation of herd through transplants from stable populations or conservation breeding facilities 

Population Status & Threats

The central Selkirk caribou population has declined 89% (down from 227 to 25 caribou) over the past 20 years. Calf recruitment has been below levels necessary for stable or growing populations for most of the past 10 years. 

Causes for the declines include: 

  • habitat fragmentation as a result of logging, hydro-electric developments, highways, mining, etc;
  • Increased predation as a result of land disturbance. Land disturbance has resulted in increased browse for moose, elk and deer which in turn has artificially increased predator numbers and encounters with caribou;
  • Disturbance from winter backcountry recreation such as heli-skiing, snowmobiling, cat skiing and ski touring;
  • Climate change.