The Village of Nakusp recently approved the lease agreement for a new maternity caribou pen.
The 10-hectare project is on a property north of the Nakusp Hot Spring and the land is owned by the village.
Of the six caribou herds south of Highway 1, the central Selkirk herd is the last one remaining. Caribou numbers in this herd have plummeted 89 per cent in the last 20 years from 230 animals to 24.
While the B.C. government protected 300, 000 hectares of core habitat from logging and mining in 2008, animal numbers continue to dwindle.
According to the B.C. government, caribou across the province have declined from 40,000 in the early 1900s to less than 19,000 today.
The five-year penning project is being spearheaded by the Arrow Lakes Caribou Society, based on similar projects north of Revelstoke and the Klinse-Za herd in northern B.C.
In 2013, the Klinse-Za herd had dwindled to 16 animals. The Saulteau and West Moberly First Nations built a maternity pen and seven years later the herd is now at at more than 100 animals.
“It can have a really good outcome,” said Hugh Watt, Arrow Lakes Caribou Society president.
With a maternity pen, pregnant cows are captured in the spring during calving season. The cows are taken to an enclosed pen for giving birth, safe from predators. In July, the mom and calf are released.
The original plan was to capture caribou this April, but COVID-19 has delayed it until next year.
Watt said the pen is mostly complete, but the fence still needs to be electrified and more security added. The society is still fundraising for the project, which Watt said will cost roughly $300,000 per year to operate
The society said there will be upcoming volunteer opportunities for the project, including picking lichen, which is the main food source for caribou.
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