Red-listed caribou

Dear Editor,

There is an error that needs correction in your otherwise excellent article on snowmobile closures in the Robson and North Thompson Valleys, “Conservation to increase backcountry presence.” These animals are ‘red-listed’, rather than ‘blue-listed.’

The caribou in our area are true mountain caribou, living exclusively in mountainous areas, most of the year at high elevations. Their diet is primarily arboreal lichens, hanging from trees, in subalpine forests. They are the only caribou population (not quite a sub-species) that makes it’s living in this manner.

They are listed as “woodland caribou (southern mountain population)” by both the BC Conservation Data Centre and COSEWIC (The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada). Each of these agencies has their own ranking system to advise government and the public if a particular species is in any danger of extinction or extirpation or of special concern.

Both organizations rank our area’s mountain caribou as being at the upper end of endangerment. COSEWIC has them as ‘endangered.’

The province has them as ‘red-listed’: the most endangered. Examples of blue-listed species are great blue heron and grizzly bear.

For the most part, the snowmobile community has been very respectful of the closures and VARDA has been a leader in that regard.

The snowmobile closures are just one of several actions the government has taken to protect these animals. It has also set areas aside from industrial development and prohibited hunting of them. It is still too early to know if the restrictions that have been put in place are adequate to prevent this iconic population of caribou from going extinct.

Roy Howard
Fraser Headwaters Alliance Dunster, B.C.

Editor’s note: The Ministry of Forests, Land and Natural Resources informed the Goat on Dec 19, 2016 and on Jan. 10, 2017, that mountain caribou in the Blue River-Valemount area are, in fact, blue-listed.