Immediate population management needed to save remaining caribou herds, study shows | 3/12/2019 | Staff
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The fate of woodland caribou rest on a varied, immediate and intense response to reduce predation rates, according to a University of Alberta-led comprehensive review of population recovery measures.

"This is a conservation emergency," said Rob Serrouya, director of the Caribou Monitoring Unit of the U of A-affiliated Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring Institute and lead author on the study. "Four herds in B.C. and Alberta have gone extinct over the last 25 years and there are less than 3,000 woodland caribou in the study area in the two provinces."

Clock - Ticking - Serrouya - Team - Results

With the clock ticking, Serrouya's team analyzed results from 25 years of attempts to manage caribou populations in an area covering more than 90,000 square kilometres in the southern portion of the Canadian Rocky mountains. The population management treatments studied were translocation, wolf reduction, moose reduction and maternity penning, which involves protecting caribou and their newborns during labour and for a month after birth.

What the group found was—save for the translocation, which Serrouya said was doomed to fail as it happened in an area where there was no predator reduction—removing wolves, moose and using maternity pens each worked. However, the researchers also found that if at least two of the treatments were tried in combination, population growth of the caribou was increased even more so.

Population - Surge - Klines-Za - Population - North

The most dramatic population surge occurred In the Klines-Za population, north of Prince George, BC, where maternal penning and wolf removal strategies were used. In three years, the herd nearly doubled, from 36 to more than 67.

"To turn around a population of big animals is very rare in a conservation setting, especially with caribou," said Serrouya.

Treatments - Success - Research - Measures - Declines

And while doubling up on treatments led to the greatest success, the research showed that if any of the measures were done half-heartedly, declines continued.

In one instance, wolf removal was done to help the South...
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