South Selkirk Caribou Recovery
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Draft Management Plan Completed
Beginning in August 2015 and continuing through 2019, the USFWS contracted with the Kootenai Tribe of Idaho to develop an updated management plan for South Selkirk Caribou. To accomplish this, a multi-entity and transboundary group of technical experts, the Selkirk Caribou International Work Group (SCITWG), was convened. This group met more than 29 times (frequently for multiple day meetings) to assemble and review updated information, identify and coordinate implementation of near-term actions, and complete a three-part management plan for South Selkirk Mountain Caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou). Representatives from the USFWS actively participated throughout this effort.

The result was the South Selkirk Caribou Management Plan (
download the plan), which will be submitted to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

South Selkirk Caribou Management - Executive Summary
This document addresses recovery planning efforts for the South Selkirk Subpopulation of Southern Mountain Caribou, a distinct population of the woodland caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou) subspecies. It was developed by the Selkirk Caribou International Technical Work Group (SCITWG), whose participants include tribal, local government, state, and federal representatives from the United States (U.S.) together with First Nation and provincial representatives from British Columbia (B.C.), Canada.

This Management Plan follows the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s recovery plan format, which consists of three parts: Part 1 – science/background summary, Part 2 – management goals, and Part 3 – implementation plan. Parts 1 and 3 are living documents and will be updated regularly, while Part 2 sets the management goals for this subpopulation.

South Selkirk Caribou are a subpopulation of Southern Mountain Caribou. Unlike other distinct populations of caribou and other deer species, in general Southern Mountain Caribou move to higher elevations during the winter. The deeper snowpack conditions provide them lift to feed on tree lichens and separates them from predators. Southern Mountain Caribou historically existed in an interconnected population that extended from central British Columbia south into the states of Washington and Idaho. Currently, this population has been fragmented into 17 isolated subpopulations, of which two have been extirpated since 2002.

The Southern Mountain Caribou are an important population in the culture and history of the Ktunaxa Nation (including the Kootenai Tribe of Idaho, Ktunaxa Nation Council and Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes), Kalispel Tribe and other indigenous peoples.

The South Selkirk subpopulation was listed under the Endangered Species Act in 1983, when the population numbered 26 animals. This subpopulation along with the Southern Mountain Population was listed under Canada’s Species at Risk Act in 2000.

In 2018, 95% of the management area had regulatory mechanisms in place to protect caribou habitat. Winter motorized use is prohibited in caribou high use areas in BC and by a court injunction in a majority of the U.S. portion of the management area.

Between 1987-1990 and 1996-1998, 60 (Idaho) and 43 (Washington/BC) caribou were augmented into this subpopulation, respectively. Between 1988 and 2009, the subpopulation has varied from 33 to 55 animals. From 2002 through 2009, the population steadily increased from 34 to 46 animals. Since 2009, the population experienced a steady and sharp decline to a population of three animals in 2018. It is believed that this decline is due to unsustainable predation rates. Of the 42 known mortalities within this subpopulation, 26 mortalities were due to predation. The cause of the steep decline from 11 to 3 animals from 2017 to 2018 remains unknown.

The vision for South Selkirk Caribou is to retain and bolster the wild herd in the southern Selkirk Mountains so that it is able to persist over the long-term and contribute to the conservation of Southern Mountain Caribou. Active management (that is, human intervention) will be necessary to ensure the longterm health, persistence, and a transboundary distribution for this subpopulation, which may eventually support indigenous subsistence and Treaty-reserved harvest and recreational hunting. Given current habitat, the SCITWG set a population objective of 90 animals for this subpopulation. In addition, genetic interchange would be needed and could be accomplished naturally or through management actions.

To fulfill the vision and achieve the population objective, the following broad actions are needed:
  • Increase the abundance and distribution of South Selkirk Caribou within the Management Area.
  • Maintain the genetic integrity (diversity/characteristics) of South Selkirk Caribou within the Management Area.
  • Maintain appropriate habitat quality and quantity within the Management Area so that it is capable of supporting 90 South Selkirk Caribou.
  • Inform, educate, and involve the public in implementation activities.
  • Adaptively manage implementation activities.
  • Adaptively manage multiple uses as consistent with South Selkirk Caribou conservation.

Near-term actions (2018-2022) to achieve the broad actions include the following:
  • Continue monitoring the remaining population (annual census, radio collars, genetic evaluation).
  • A radio-collared bull caribou mortality was investigated on 6/20/17 with cause of death inconclusive. An additional aerial survey is planned in the spring of 2018 to search for evidence of the remaining 7 caribou missing since the 2017 census (unknown fate).
  • Identify, protect and enhance travel corridors within the management area.
  • Review the overall approach to the maternal pen (given a population of 3 animals), assess options, and identify next steps (e.g., reevaluate site, repair pen, move animals and/or investigate potential augmentation).
  • Evaluate and support opportunities to monitor predator populations, reduce predator populations near caribou, reduce alternate prey densities, etc.
  • Participate in development of U.S. Forest Service Winter Travel plans and development of British Columbia Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development (BCMF) recreation management.
  • Implement actions to reduce injury and/or mortality to South Selkirk Caribou associated with Highway 3 in B.C.
  • Maintain current levels of habitat protection and minimize additional caribou habitat fragmentation.
  • Provide regular updates to stakeholders and interested public on the status of the South Selkirk Subpopulation.
  • Convene an annual SCITWG meeting.
  • Continue research to identify and evaluate factors limiting South Selkirk Caribou.
  • Review opportunities to adaptively manage multiple uses (e.g., seasonal recreation, road access,
    timber harvest) consistent with South Selkirk Caribou conservation.

Contact
Scott Soults
Kootenai Tribe of Idaho
(208)267-3620
soults@kootenai.org
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Kootenai Tribe of Idaho
P.O. Box 1269
Bonners Ferry, ID 83805
Phone: 208-267-3519

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