Teck is a long-time supporter of the Klinse-Za maternal penning program, a unique partnership between First Nations, government and industry helping to rebuild the threatened Klinse-Za caribou herd in northeastern B.C.
The program aims to protect pregnant caribou and their calves from predators during the critical birthing period when they are most vulnerable to predation. Pregnant female caribou (cows) are tagged and safely transported by helicopter to a remote and secure penning location. The cows are supported and cared for by a team of shepherds (the ‘Guardians’) during pregnancy, through the delivery process, and during post-natal preparation for both the cow and calf to integrate back into their natural habitat.
Spring Penning Capture and Calving Season
In our last update on the Klinse-Za Maternal Penning Program, all 36 caribou – including 16 calves born during the 2022 calving season – had been released from the pen and into their natural habitat for the winter.
The March 2023 update from the program’s Guardians yielded great news for the herd; the 2023 capture session at Mount Bickford was among the best they’ve ever had. A total of 22 cows were captured without incident in only two days, which is the highest number of caribou in the 10-year history of the project.
In addition to the spring capture, the Guardians conduct an annual population survey, as there are more caribou in the area beyond those that are penned each spring. The Guardians observed 132 caribou, up 18 since last year and representing the largest increase since recovery began 10 years ago.
Similar to the previous year, most of the caribou were found around Mount Rochfort, highlighting the importance of that area to caribou even in the absence of penning in the area.
Of the penned cows, 18 gave birth as of June 30, with one more expected at that time. In addition to the calves born in the pen, 20 more were born in the free ranging herd, totaling 38 calves. It was the most successful calving season since the program began!
At the time of our last update, the hope was that the orphaned ‘Calf 38’ would spend the winter with caribou from the pen to better improve his chances of surviving. Fortunately, Calf 38 appears to have fared well over the winter, and though he is smaller than the other calves, he looks healthy and is fitting in well with the herd.
It Runs in the Family
For the second year in a row, there are three generations of caribou in the pen. C311K, who is the oldest cow in the herd at about 14 years old, is joined in the pen by C356K, one of her previous calves, and C356K is joined by one of her previous calves.
Teck’s involvement in the maternal penning program started in 2011 when meetings were held with the Saulteau First Nations to discuss a regional multi-stakeholder initiative to address the issue of declining caribou populations. During a series of workshops in 2012, the Peace Northern Caribou Committee was formed, and its members identified maternal penning as a priority action. Since that time, Teck has provided operational funding for the project as well as funding for ancillary research initiatives related to habitat restoration and predator dynamics.
Now, over a decade later, the success of this Indigenous-led, hands-on conservation approach is steering the Klinse-Za on a path toward recovery.