Recovery Strategy for the Woodland Caribou, Southern Mountain population (Rangifer tarandus caribou) in Canada - 2014 [Final]
- Executive Summary
- Recovery Feasibility Summary
- 1. COSEWIC Species Assessment Information
- 2. Species Status Information
- 3. Species Information
- 4. Threats
- 5. Population and Distribution Objectives
- 6. Broad Strategies and General Approaches to Meet Objectives
- 7. Critical Habitat
- 8. Measuring Progress
- 9. Statement On Action Plans
- 10. Glossary
- Appendix A: Effects on the Environment and Other Species
- Appendix B: Maps of Critical Habitat for Southern Mountain Caribou Local Population Units (LPUs)
- Appendix C: Biophysical Attributes for Southern Mountain Caribou Critical Habitat
6. Broad Strategies and General Approaches to Meet Objectives
- 6.1 Actions Already Completed or Currently Underway
- 6.2 Strategic Direction for Recovery
- 6.3 Narrative to Support the Recovery Planning Table
6.1 Actions Already Completed or Currently Underway
Federal and provincial governments, Aboriginal people, non-government organizations, and affected industries in BC and Alberta have taken a range of actions to manage and protect southern mountain caribou and their habitats. Examples of actions already completed or currently underway include:
- identification and delineation of southern mountain caribou ranges and habitats within ranges;
- assessment of the population size and/or trend and/or distribution of subpopulations of southern mountain caribou in Canada and straddling the Canada-U.S. border;
- consideration of southern mountain caribou habitat requirements when planning and implementing forest harvesting and other industrial activities, including prohibition of forest harvesting and road building activities in 2.2 million ha (e.g. Ungulate Winter Ranges, protected areas) to protect high suitability habitat for southern mountain caribou in the Southern Group in BC;
- consideration of southern mountain caribou habitat when planning and implementing prescribed fires in national parks and on other lands, including conducting prescribed fires in areas away from caribou habitat to maintain a safe distance between caribou and predators;
- closure to snowmobiling of 1 million ha of high elevation habitat within ranges of southern mountain caribou in the Southern Group in BC;
- development and implementation of operating procedures for helicopter and snowcat skiing in southern mountain caribou in the Southern Group in BC;
- cessation of the setting of early season ski tracks that lead into caribou winter range, and periodic seasonal trail and road closures in national parks;
- development and implementation of operating guidelines for industrial development within southern mountain caribou ranges;
- land-use planning to identify areas within southern mountain caribou ranges where southern mountain caribou conservation is prioritized;
- voluntary cessation of hunting by Aboriginal people;
- preparation of the Action Plan for the Klinse-Za Herd of Woodland Caribou (part of the Pine River LPU) by the West Moberly First Nations;
- hunting closures for most southern mountain caribou subpopulations and restrictions in areas that remain open to hunting;
- reduced speed zones on highways in important caribou habitat;
- predator and alternate prey management projects in some ranges where subpopulations of southern mountain caribou are declining;
- population augmentation through translocations and reduction of early calf mortality through maternal penning;
- development of cooperative stewardship agreements, memoranda of understanding, and activities to support the engagement of Aboriginal organizations, recreational stakeholders, and other stakeholders in the monitoring, management, and conservation of southern mountain caribou;
- incorporation of strategies to minimize recreational disturbance to caribou in provincial park management plans;
- preparation of outreach materials on southern mountain caribou and dissemination to interest groups, recreational organizations, and the general public;
- education of park visitors on how to avoid disturbing caribou; and,
- research on southern mountain caribou ranges, habitat, ecology and limiting factors.
Collectively, these actions, and the level of commitment associated with these actions, are an encouraging foundation upon which to build.
Table 8 outlines the status of provincial and federal planning initiatives for southern mountain caribou. In addition, the US Fish and Wildlife Service developed a recovery plan for the South Selkirk subpopulation for the US portion of their annual range (US Fish and Wildlife Service 1993). Existing direction from the provincial and federal planning initiatives that is consistent with the recovery of southern mountain caribou has been taken into consideration in this recovery strategy.
|Provincial / Federal Jurisdiction||Recovery Document||Recovery Objective|
Mount Revelstoke and Glacier:
6.2 Strategic Direction for Recovery
Table 9 and the following narrative describe the broad strategies and general approaches, as well as research and management activities needed to achieve the population and distribution objectives for southern mountain caribou. Strategies and approaches are often interrelated and details on their implementation and their level of priority will differ by LPU and habitat condition. Timing of specific recovery actions and their level of priority will be outlined and addressed in subsequent action plans (see Section 9). The overall approach is to conduct population management actions in the short term, concurrent with habitat restoration activities, until suitable habitat is restored. To achieve the population and distribution objective "to stop the decline in both size and distribution of all LPUs”, immediate action is required on strategies that have been prioritized as "urgent” in Table 9.
|Cat.||Threat or Limitation||PriorityTable 9 noteff||Broad Strategy to Recovery||General Description of Research and Management Approaches|
|Mortality and Population Management||Predation||Urgent||Manage predators and primary prey|
|Mortality and Population Management||Hunting||Medium||Manage direct human-caused mortality of southern mountain caribou|
|Mortality and Population Management||Roads and linear features||Medium||Manage vehicular traffic and road maintenance|
|Mortality and Population Management||Small LPU size||Medium||Augment / reintroduce caribou|
|Landscape Level Planning|
Industrial activities (habitat alteration)
Roads and linear features
Natural disturbance (habitat alteration)
|Urgent||Undertake landscape level protection and planning that considers current and future southern mountain caribou habitat requirements|
Industrial activities (habitat alteration)
Roads and linear features
Natural disturbance (habitat alteration)
|Urgent||Manage habitat to meet current and future habitat requirements of southern mountain caribou|
|Managing Recreational Activities|
|Urgent||Manage access and timing of recreational activities in caribou habitat to minimize trails and caribou displacement.|
|Population Monitoring||Knowledge gaps: Population dynamics (trends, size, structure, and distribution)||Urgent||Conduct population studies and research to better understand population structure, trends and distribution|
|Population Monitoring||Knowledge gaps: climate change||Medium||Assess effects of climate change on caribou health and habitat conditions|
|Population Monitoring||Knowledge gaps: southern mountain caribou sensory disturbance||Medium||Monitor and manage sensory disturbance of southern mountain caribou|
|Population Monitoring||Knowledge gaps: southern mountain caribou health and condition||Low-medium||Monitor southern mountain caribou health and condition|
Table 9 notes
- Table 9 note ff
Priority reflects the level of priority of the broad strategy for all southern mountain caribou. This priority for each LPU may differ.
6.3 Narrative to Support the Recovery Planning Table
Recovery of southern mountain caribou will require the commitment, collaboration and cooperation among federal, provincial and international jurisdictions, Aboriginal people, local communities, landowners, industry and other interested parties. It will be important to monitor habitat conditions, and the distribution, size and trends of southern mountain caribou local population units so that the effectiveness of individual caribou range management regimes can be evaluated and adjusted as necessary. It will take time for the impact of human developments and natural disturbances, and/or population and habitat restoration activities on southern mountain caribou populations to become evident. Therefore, action plans must take into account the likelihood of a delayed southern mountain caribou population and distribution response to human-caused or natural habitat alterations and restoration activities, and include short-term management actions to prevent further declines.
6.3.1 Mortality and Population Management
188.8.131.52 Manage Predators and Their Primary Prey
Human-induced habitat alterations have created favourable conditions for other prey such as moose and deer and subsequently increased populations of predators, resulting in unnaturally high predation rates on southern mountain caribou. For most southern mountain caribou, habitat alteration is continuing, especially in those areas where mountain pine beetle salvage harvesting is occurring. As a result, for some LPUs predation rates are much higher than can be sustained and are unlikely to decline unless habitat recovers. A population management approach involving management of other wildlife species (i.e., predators and their primary prey) is almost certainly required in the short term to stop southern mountain caribou declines and stabilize some LPUs to prevent their extirpation. Where the condition of the LPU warrants such measures, management of predators and their primary prey should be applied as interim management tools until habitat conditions in the range recover.
Habitat management that leads to restoration of forested landscapes will be necessary to recover the seasonal range conditions and predator densities necessary to maintain southern mountain caribou LPUs. Management of predators and their primary prey should be considered simultaneously. Primary prey management applied in the absence of concurrent predator management has the potential to be harmful to southern mountain caribou conservation. Predator management without concurrent primary prey management and habitat restoration also may not be effective. Predator management through increased hunting of predators has been implemented in some southern mountain caribou LPUs, but this action alone will likely not reduce predator abundance sufficiently to achieve desired population trends or size targets for southern mountain caribou. More direct intensive, widespread and on-going predator management programs will be necessary in the short term to halt southern mountain caribou declines.
184.108.40.206 Manage Direct Human-Caused Mortality of Southern Mountain Caribou
Licenced hunting is closed for all but three southern mountain caribou subpopulations. Where hunting occurs, it is important to monitor the level of hunting in order to understand the potential impact of hunting on the viability of a LPU, including potential impacts on other subpopulations within that LPU. Should regulated hunting be determined to be having a negative effect on the population growth of the three subpopulations where it is still permitted, it should be closed at least until the population trajectory becomes positive. Attention should also be given to areas where southern mountain caribou annual ranges overlap with northern mountain caribou and to areas where licenced hunting is permitted. Additionally, hunting regulations for northern mountain caribou should be modified as appropriate. In areas where hunting both occurs and is shown to have a negative effect on LPU and subpopulation viability, harvest strategies should be developed, in consultation with Aboriginal people, to achieve southern mountain caribou recovery.
220.127.116.11 Augment/reintroduce Southern Mountain Caribou
For some LPUs with small population sizes, investment in intensive management options (e.g., maternal penning, augmentation) may be required to achieve recovery goals. Where threats have been addressed in currently unoccupied areas, re-introductions may be possible. A captive breeding program may be considered where viable sources for augmentation or re introduction are not available.
6.3.2 Landscape Level Planning
Effective and coordinated landscape level planning of all activities is required to ensure successful recovery of southern mountain caribou. Landscape level planning should be used for addressing the cumulative effects of habitat alteration and for managing habitat and sensory disturbance. Action planning for southern mountain caribou should consider current and future human developments and determine detailed management activities that are tailored to the conditions of the LPUs in question. Action plans should take into account natural disturbances and cumulative effects of development within and between southern mountain caribou LPUs. Within LPUs that contain more than one subpopulation, habitat alteration within and between subpopulation annual ranges will also need to be considered to avoid irreversible range retraction and permanent breaks in range connectivity.
Since actions taken in one LPU may impact neighbouring LPUs, it will be important that provincial and federal agencies take a collaborative approach to planning, particularly with jointly managed LPUs (e.g., transboundary LPUs) .
6.3.3 Habitat Management
Southern mountain caribou annual ranges will need to be managed and restored to ensure their current and future ability to support self-sustaining LPUs. The appropriateness and effectiveness of various short and long-term management activities may vary between and within LPUs due to differences in the population condition and specific local conditions.
Management of the amount, type and distribution of human developments will be necessary. Both human-caused and natural disturbances will need to be monitored and measured. Methods may vary in accordance with the information and tools available to the provinces and federal agencies involved. Disturbed areas may need to be improved or restored or offset (including growing disturbed areas back to a mature condition) to support population and distribution objectives within each southern mountain caribou LPU. Maintaining or restoring connectivity within and between habitat patches, seasonal ranges, and LPUs will be particularly important for southern mountain caribou throughout their distribution. For LPUs that are jointly managed by provinces and federal governments (i.e., transboundary LPUs), collaborative habitat management approaches will be necessary to ensure that compatible recovery efforts are underway. Though LPUs may cross provincial and international boundaries, each jurisdiction remains accountable for activities carried out within their own portion of a LPU.
6.3.4 Managing Recreational Activities
Increasing recreational use of back-country areas both within and outside protected areas has been recognized both provincially and federally as an important ecosystem and species conservation concern. Hiking, skiing (back-country, heli-skiing, cat-skiing, downhill ski resorts), heli-hiking, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, and off-road vehicle access increase opportunities for predators to access caribou habitat and may also displace caribou. Currently, some protected areas have guidelines in place for managing the timing and extent of recreational use during sensitive seasons or in areas where movements by caribou are restricted. For a number of LPUs, the annual extent of recreational use is poorly known. Since the use of remote areas for recreation is expected to increase, additional guidelines, management plans and tools for protecting southern mountain caribou need to be developed for activities and areas that are not addressed by existing tools or for areas where existing approaches are not effective.
6.3.5 Population Monitoring
18.104.22.168 Conduct Population Studies to Better Understand Southern Mountain Caribou Population Structure, Trends and Distribution
A considerable amount of information is available on numbers and trends of southern mountain caribou (see Section 3.2 Population and Distribution). While accurate population size and trend estimates are available for most subpopulations, for others, size and trend estimates are based on limited or out-of-date data. For the Southern Group, surveys that are used to estimate numbers and trends have been conducted on all but one subpopulation in the last 3 years (see Table 3). Similarly, for the Central Group, subpopulations that use high elevation winter ranges and can be surveyed in late winter also have recent estimates, and current trends for most subpopulations in the Central Group based on calf recruitment from late winter surveys and adult mortality from ongoing radio-collared caribou studies are available. In the Northern Group many subpopulations are difficult to survey without the aid of radio-collared caribou. Because radio-collared caribou studies are often limited in duration, there are few current estimates of numbers and trends for subpopulations in the Northern Group. Regular monitoring of numbers and trends is needed, especially for subpopulations that are currently declining, that have undergone significant long-term declines, that consist of fewer than 100 animals, or that do not have current estimates of numbers and/or trends. For all subpopulations, population size and trends, and caribou distribution, should also be monitored over time to test the efficacy of management actions and adapt those management actions as appropriate.
In addition to monitoring southern mountain caribou numbers and trends, a better understanding of southern mountain caribou evolutionary lineages (phylogenetics) and genetic structuring is needed. Recent studies (e.g., McDevitt et al. 2009, Serrouya et al. 2012, Weckworth et al. 2012) have contributed substantially to this understanding for most of the subpopulations in the Central Group and many of the subpopulations in the Southern Group, but a study that includes all southern mountain caribou is needed.
Data to assess the effectiveness of alternative management measures to improve population dynamics (e.g., maternal penning, predator management/control, augmentation) comes from only a few studies, some of which have combined several measures in a single study (e.g., Smith and Pittaway 2011, Chisana Caribou Recovery Team 2010). Two maternal penning projects were recently initiated for southern mountain caribou (Pine River LPU, Revelstoke-Shuswap LPU). Monitoring the effectiveness of these two projects is essential for assessing their utility for halting declines and developing action plans.
22.214.171.124 Conduct Studies to Better Understand Climate Change on Southern Mountain Caribou
The assessment and monitoring of climate regimes and climate-related effects on caribou use of habitat, coupled with predicted shifts in vulnerability to climate-mediated disturbance and habitat dynamics, will be important in both action planning and monitoring of LPUrecovery. Predicted effects of climate change in montane species include: shifting phenologies (plant and animal life cycle events influenced by seasonal and inter-annual variations in climate as well as habitat factors) among plant species; changing availability of access to forage through shifting snowpack depth and hardness; and, altered severity and timing of storm events creating hazards such as avalanches, rain-on-snow events, disturbances (e.g., fires) or intense storms during sensitive periods. Longer-term effects may include elevational shifts in availability of food on winter/summer ranges, shifts in distribution of other animals and plants, and changing successional pathways for forest and range vegetation communities. It is not well known how these effects may interact with southern mountain caribou movements and population dynamics, especially when populations are small.
Although parasites and diseases have not been reported as a significant direct cause of mortality for southern mountain caribou, climate change could result in increased prevalence, intensity and geographic distribution of parasites and diseases that can or could potentially infect southern mountain caribou. Parasites and diseases could potentially impact reproduction or result in a reduction in overall health of an individual animal, which could make it more susceptible to other mortality risks such as predation. An assessment of how climate change could affect parasites and diseases and their potential impacts on caribou will be important for assessing other potential mortality risks in the mid and long term.
126.96.36.199 Monitor and Manage Sensory Disturbance of Southern Mountain Caribou
The extent, distribution and effects of various sources of sensory disturbance (e.g., low-flying aircraft, snowmobiles, equipment associated with various industries and recreational users) on individual southern mountain caribou and southern mountain caribou subpopulations should be assessed and managed in conjunction with provincial and federal regulations and guidelines. Where required, additional management actions to reduce the effects of sensory disturbance on southern mountain caribou should be implemented and the effectiveness of the management actions should be monitored over time and adapted as necessary.
188.8.131.52 Monitor Southern Mountain Caribou Health and Condition
Parasites and disease can affect individual southern mountain caribou and may have effects at the LPU level in certain parts of their distribution. Pollution could also negatively affect the health of southern mountain caribou and may result in mortality if individuals consume toxins at waste sites. However, little is known about the severity of parasites, disease and pollution to individual southern mountain caribou or to southern mountain caribou subpopulations. Therefore, information on the health and body condition of southern mountain caribou should be assessed when handling animals. This would assist in better understanding the relationship between these threats and the viability of subpopulations, and the determination of a need for additional recovery actions.
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