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Food program boosts declining caribou population in B.C.

Natasha Kumar By Natasha Kumar Dec11,2023

Feeding program boosts declining caribou population in B.C. .

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A feeding program for a population of British Columbia's woodland caribou appears to be paying off, as the animals' numbers have more than doubled in the past decade. (Archive photo)


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In east-central British Columbia, a retired wildlife biologist established a feeding program to help a declining caribou herd. This conservation effort appears to be beneficial to the herd, as according to specialist data, it has doubled in population in the last 10 years.

It was about 200 kilometers north of Prince George that Doug Heard launched his food program. The area called Kennedy Siding covers 223 hectares and is critical habitat for this population of endangered woodland caribou.

The program consists of placing pelleted feed, consisting of corn and seeds, in containers with locations scattered throughout the area. According to Doug Heard, this form of eating is easy to digest and very nutritious.

The former biologist realized a decade ago that the herd in the Kennedy Siding area was in difficulty. According to his data, in 2013 there were approximately 64 animals. There are 132 in 2023.

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Caribou huddled around a feeder filled with specially designed pellets in Kennedy Siding, British Columbia.

McLeod Lake First Nation confirms that the Kennedy Siding caribou population was declining by approximately 9% per year before the food program began. Between 2014 and 2022, the population increased by 16% each year, according to the First Nation.

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Furthermore, British Columbia has implemented wolf cull programs (New window) (in English) in the South Peace region since 2015. Victoria thus wants to improve the survival rate of caribou herds, including those by Kennedy Siding.

According to the Ministry of Forestry, 1,429 wolves were shot from the air as part of a reduction program between 2015 and 2022. This wolf cull program was renewed for five years in winter 2022.

The ministry believes that without reductions in predators, caribou herds will continue to decline and risk extinction.

Doug Heard analyzed the data collected at in the first six years of his feeding program and claims that wolf removal and his program reduced the population decline by 16%.

It appears that food contributes about 3% of this 16% growth, and therefore has some impact, as shown by comparing this population with adjacent populations that are not fed, analyzes the former biologist, who keeps a constant eye on the herd using cutting-edge equipment.

It also collects hair and feces samples to determine pedigree using DNA testing.

< p class="StyledBodyHtmlParagraph-sc-48221190-4 hnvfyV">It's a pleasure to be close to the animals, to know their personalities and to learn new things, rejoices Doug Heard, affirming that it is both personally and scientifically satisfying to work on a project supported by the community and whose results are convincing.

With information fromCatherine Hansen andBridgette Watson

Natasha Kumar

By Natasha Kumar

Natasha Kumar has been a reporter on the news desk since 2018. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining The Times Hub, Natasha Kumar worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my 1-800-268-7116

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