The caribou guardians
September 17, 2018 8:48 AM   Subscribe

In a quiet pen in B.C.’s northeast corner, pregnant caribou cows and their calves are fed hand-picked old growth lichen, provided 24-hour armed security and are the subject of one of Canada’s boldest and most experimental efforts to save a species from extinction.

On a calm, chilly day in January, Saulteau First Nations member Julian Napoleon joined a three-helicopter rescue mission that rivalled a James Bond escapade in the Austrian Alps for its ingenuity and speed.

The search was on, in the snow-clad Misinchinka mountains in northeast B.C., for a dozen female caribou from an endangered herd called Klinse-Za. Caribou C-315S, spotted crossing an alpine meadow, was a bull’s eye target for a net gun shot by a biologist, balanced on a helicopter skid and strapped to his airborne machine.
posted by poffin boffin (5 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
For confused caribou fans, this article fails to make it clear that it is about the endangered mountain caribou ecotype of woodland caribou. The more well-known Rangifer tarandus granti or barren ground caribou are doing OK for now, but are of course worried about their cousins in BC.
posted by Glomar response at 9:09 AM on September 17, 2018 [3 favorites]

Rangifer tarandus granti or barren ground caribou are doing OK for now
The decline of Canada’s barren-ground caribou herds is being felt across the North. Eight out of Canada’s 13 herds are decreasing, and many are down over 90 percent from historical highs. The Bathurst herd, once among Canada’s largest at almost half a million animals, is now down to less than 20,000. Nunavut’s Baffin Island herd has dwindled from 100,000 caribou in the 1990s to approximately 5,000 today.
I'm not a caribou biologist, but I am related to and work with a few. Their comments to me are much closer to the above than not. All herds are under pressure, even the "healthy" ones, and many are in existential trouble.

It's going to be a long road to come back, if that's possible at all, and will have to involve the native populations, as outlined in the article linked above, as well as have significant impacts and limits on the oil and gas and mining sectors in the north.
posted by bonehead at 9:43 AM on September 17, 2018 [5 favorites]

Endangered Vancouver Island marmots are bred at the Calgary Zoo, where zookeepers sometimes parade a taxidermied cougar past cages to stimulate alarm whistles — a piercing shriek warning other marmots of imminent danger. It’s a reflex the marmots will need once they are airlifted back to Vancouver Island for release, their movements monitored through tracking devices surgically implanted in their bellies.

I'm sure most zookeeper work is shoveling manure and placing food, but let's be honest the other 15 percent is pretty awesome.
posted by Hypatia at 10:00 AM on September 17, 2018 [13 favorites]

Thanks for this post.

I developed a soft spot for caribou after my kids put the fantastic book Little Caribou on repeat for months. I think I could recite most of that book from memory.

I'm glad to know this project exists.
posted by medusa at 8:12 PM on September 17, 2018

Like most people, I have never seen a caribou in the wild. I know them mainly as the antlered animal engraved on the Canadian quarter: stoic, regal and frequently mistaken for a moose. In popular culture, caribou are the eulogized creatures that pull Santa’s sleigh, courtesy of an 1823 Christmas poem whose author is believed to have been high on mushrooms when he envisioned reindeer in the sky.

This is a great article, not only because of these two eyebrows-shooting-up-in-surprise assertions placed so close together.
posted by Ten Cold Hot Dogs at 11:47 PM on September 17, 2018

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