They are generally timid, so it’s relatively rare to spot caribou in the wilderness around Revelstoke. A sighting is even less likely today than in decades past because of their small population.
Conservation Officer Dan Bartol said the herd in the North Columbia amounts to approximately 150 animals and protecting them and other B.C. caribou has become a top priority for the Conservation Officer Service this year.
“The reason we are putting so much effort into this is that there is just not a lot of caribou left and we want to work hard to preserve the population that we have and ideally grow it,” Bartol said.
So the Conservation Officer Service has stepped up their patrols of caribou closure areas this winter.
In the Revelstoke area, they are going out at least once a week, patrolling by helicopter and snowmobile, to ensure snowmobilers are staying out of areas closed off for the protection of caribou.
The closures are supposed to create refuges for caribou where they won’t be stressed by human visitors.
“The caribou are in these specific locations because of the lichens that are on the trees. There is snowpack that builds up [and] they are then able to access the lichens,” Conservation Officer Drew Milne explained.
“Snowmobilers go on there, stress them and push them off. It also creates a highway for predators likes wolves, who then move in and get up into the high snow areas and predate on these caribou.”
Bartol said compliance with the closures has been fairly good this winter but officers have spotted snowmobile tracks, indicating some people are still not following the rules.
“Things have been pretty good but all it takes is one instance of noncompliance to allow predators to get into these caribou closures and threaten the caribou further,” Bartol said.
“My first season here, noncompliance was quite high. We take basically a zero-tolerance policy. People are going to be charged every single time they are in a caribou closure and some people have had sleds seized as a result as well.”
However, officers patrolling in the Revelstoke area have yet to catch anyone in the act of sledding in the closure area this year.
“Over the course of seven days and over such a large terrain, it is hard to be everywhere at once. We are putting in whatever effort we can. Hopefully education does it and if education isn’t going to be a good enough tool, then enforcement is going to have to be,” Bartol said.
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