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Quieter winter for Selkirks' endangered caribou

Dec 03, 2010
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Federal and state agencies announced today they will step up patrols in the Selkirk Mountains this winter to help protect the highly endangered mountain caribou that winter in the range from snowmobilers who illegally access areas closed to protect the endangered species.

Quieter winter for Selkirks' endangered caribou

Mountain caribou, one of North America's most endangered mammals, will get a little more space and quiet this winter, as the state steps up patrols in areas off-limits to snowmobiles.

Federal and state agencies announced today they will step up patrols in the Selkirk Mountains this winter to help protect the highly endangered mountain caribou that winter in the range from snowmobilers who illegally access areas closed to protect the endangered species.

“The caribou herd in the Selkirk Mountains is highly endangered,” she said, “so it’s really imperative not to disturb these animals during a time of year when they’re challenged anyway,” US Fish and Wildlife Service spokesperson Joan Jewett told The Spokesman Review. Like elk and other wildlife, caribou are most vulnerable in the winter when they are stressed by cold weather and deep snows. Snowmobiles and passing through caribou habitat place additional strains on the herd. 

Local snowmobiling groups spread the word and have helped agencies with self-policing, but renegade riders continue to venture into well-defined off-limits areas. Getting caught in closed areas can result in fines up to $500 for federal Endangered Species Act violations. Extreme violations could be referred to the U.S. Attorney’s office for prosecution, with convictions resulting in fines up to $100,000 or jail time.

"These animals and their Inland Rainforest home are a heritage we should be proud to protect for future generations," says Joe Scott, international conservation director with Conservation Northwest. "The least we can do is give caribou a little space.”

Mountain caribou are a unique variety of woodland caribou (Rangifer tarandus). Adapted to the lush, old-growth forests found in the Inland Temperate Rainforest, they exist nowhere else on Earth. Mountain caribou are one of North America's most endangered large mammals, with fewer than 50 animals living in the Selkirks.

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