Sledders found in caribou closure; charged

Two snowmobilers are
on the hook for entering a
caribou closure with five
caribou nearby during a
busy sledding weekend. / SUPPLIED BY B.C. CONSERVATION SERVICE

by EVAN MATTHEWS

Two snowmobilers are on the hook for entering a caribou closure with five caribou nearby during a busy sledding weekend.

B.C. Conservation found two sledders in an area marked as a caribou closure, ultimately charging them and seizing the snowmobiles.

Officers were brought in from Lillooet, Kamloops and Clearwater to help with the added pressure that comes with a long weekend, according to Sergeant Kevin Van Damme of B.C. Conservation Officer Service. Monday was Alberta’s Family Day weekend, and many sledders hail from Alberta.

“I want to stress that most of the sledders all understand the closures. Compliance is really good,” — Sergeant Kevin Van Damme, B.C. Conservation Service.

Conservation found 50-130 sledders in each of the individual North Thompson Valley riding areas on each weekend day, Van Damme says, with a total of 800 riders over the weekend.

“We had a couple people who found themselves in an area they should not have been. The area is the number one priority to protect caribou (in the region),” says Van Damme, referring to an area near Mount Peddie, but calling the closure Berry-Peddie.

With a helicopter patrolling overhead, Conservation had eyes on each of the riding areas for different portions of the day.

“We saw five caribou in and around the area the riders were moving in towards,” says Van Damme. “Those areas are extremely critical for us to make sure riders understand and get the message.”

Generally, Van Damme says sledder compliance in regards to the closures was pretty good, pointing back to the fact that a total of 800 riders spent time in the area.

“I want to stress that most of the sledders all understand the closures,” he says. “Compliance is really good.”

Conservation credits the Valemount and Area Recreation Development Association (VARDA) and the Blue River Snowmobile Club for rider compliance and education, something both organizations acknowledge has taken years of work to build.

Though non-compliance is unfortunate, VARDA General Manager, Curtis Pawliuk says he’s hopeful this weekend’s result creates more awareness, preventing other riders from doing the same in the future.

More riders entered closures than were caught, according to Conservation, saying groups often briefly dip into well-marked closures.

Getting caught, Van Damme says, is really just a matter of timing.