The Arrow Lakes Caribou Society has released 13 caribou from their care into the wild.
The caribou were part of the organization’s Maternity Pen Project, an effort to help protect and preserve the endangered animal. The release of the caribou on July 22 marks the completion of the first year of the project.
The Central Selkirk Maternity Pen, where the animals were being kept, is located in the Kuskanax Creek area, near Nakusp Hot Springs. The society describes the pen as “a safe environment for female caribou to bear and raise their calves away from predators.”
Since their release, the society and provincial researchers have tracked the caribou’s location using GPS collars.
After exiting the pen and overcoming their initial hesitance, the caribou travelled up to the alpine. Some of the caribou arrived there the same day they were released, while the others eventually made their way up by July 24.
The caribou were captured in March and brought to the pen by a 32-person team which included helicopters and snowmobiles.
Between May 24 and June 11, six calves were born at the site. The eldest of the pack birthed a stillborn and passed away 16 days later due to an infection.
The society said the animals are a “tight-knit group” and said “the calves enjoy playing and exploring together.”
The project was conducted with support from the provincial government’s Caribou Recovery Program and the Ministry of Land, Water and Resource Stewardship as well as the Ktunaxa Nation.
In a statement after the calves were born, the organization said the location of the pen had proved to be “ideal.”
“It is quiet and provides the caribou with a variety of landscape features and browsing opportunities,” they said.
The society will now evaluate the outcomes of this year’s project and begin planning for next year. The next caribou capture is expected to take place in the spring of 2023.