A couple of mountain caribou calves in southern Wells Gray provincial park were captured by remote webcam earlier this year, providing a glimmer of hope for the endangered herd.
Other than that sighting, there has been no reversal in a steady decline of the herd, the species and its northern relative, the boreal caribou, cousins of the domesticated reindeer rooted in the Christmas narrative.
“I wish Santa Claus all the very best, but that depends on the decisions we make,” said Trevor Goward, a park resident and lichenologist who studies the winter food source of mountain caribou.
Very few of the animals have been seen in southern Wells Gray in recent years. A mountain caribou referral group will meet in the new year to review the status of the province’s recovery plan for the species, he said.
After an aerial survey last year counted only half of what was once a herd of 400, there is growing concern that population decline will continue without concerted action. At a meeting in Clearwater earlier this year, government biologists acknowledged that a triage approach involving three key initiatives would be the best way of halting the decline, Goward said.