Close Pink Mountain Caribou General Open Season (Bow Only) and Limited Entry Hunting Opportunities

Regulation Number: 
2022-07-01
Status: 
Proposed
Region: 
Region 7B - Peace
MU: 
7-42
7-57
7-58
Regulation Type: 
General Open Season
Limited Entry Hunting
Species: 
Caribou
Closing Date: 
January 23, 2022 at midnight
Decision Statement: 

Pending

Current Regulations: 

There is currently an Aug. 15 to Sept. 30 5-point bull caribou Limited Entry Hunt (LEH) in Zone A of 7-42 (includes a portion of 7-57).

There is currently a Sept. 1 to Sept. 30 5-point bull caribou bow only General Open Season (GOS) in MU 7-58

Both of these hunts overlap the Pink Mountain Caribou Herd.

Proposed Regulations: 

Close the LEH and GOS hunting seasons that overlap the Pink Mountain Caribou Herd

Rationale: 

Provincially and regionally, there have been huge efforts and resources dedicated to the caribou recovery program. Pink Mountain Caribou is a subpopulation of northern mountain (NM) caribou, an ecotype of woodland caribou listed as Special Concern by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC 2014). Within British Columbia, NM caribou are currently Blue-listed with a conservation status of S2/S3 due to sustained declines in some subpopulations, uncertainty in the population trend of others, and high threats from predation and anthropogenic disturbance (BC Conservation Data Centre 2017). Predator control was implemented in this region (MUs 7-42, 7-43, 7-57/7-58) in 2018 and has continued to the present to support the herd’s recovery, address the primary source of mortality, and as part of the interim agreement with Blueberry River First Nation. A closure of GOS and LEH to the Pink Mountain Caribou Herd, would align with these recovery efforts, harmonize with conservation concerns, align with the Management Plan for Gray Wolf in British Columbia; Control of Prey Species Policy 4-7-04.01.3; and the Caribou Recovery Program – Interim Aerial Wolf Reduction Procedure 4-7-04.06 expectations that hunting is closed to implement predator control.

Wildlife management has the following order of priorities: 1) conservation of the species, 2) First Nation sustenance rights, 3) licenced resident harvest, and 4) licenced non-resident harvest. The Pink Mountain Caribou population has declined to the point First Nation communities have chosen to restrict their ability to practice Treaty right to hunt. Population decline has been observed in traditional knowledge and western science. Licenced harvest has been substantially reduced (0-1 mature bull) this proposal would close all harvest.

In 2021, a full survey of high to mid elevation habitat was conducted and resulted in a minimum count of 378 individuals. Recruitment surveys provided minimum counts from 2016, 2017 and 2018 are 252, 323 and 237, respectively. Female survival rates ranged from 72% to 96% between 2015/16 to 2020/21. Female survival below 92% suggests a decline in the population. Three of the five years have a survival rate greater than 92% suggesting a stable population. Low calf percentage, 8.7% in 2015/16 and 9.9% for 2016/17 suggest a decline in the population; however, the most recent survey in 2018/19 indicate a slightly stable population trend with 15.6% calf percentages and 16.2% for 2021. Calf percentage exceeding 15% are generally considered stable or increasing. It is important to note the wolf control program started the winter of 2018/2019 and biologists suggest this is the primary reason for this increase in calf recruitment. Lambda for this herd varies between the stable and declining for the herd. With a mean lambda of 1.034 from the years 2017, 2018, and 2021 (1.03, 0.93 and 1.135, respectively). Metrics for lambda are: 0 to 1 indicated declining population, 1 indicates stable and greater than 1 indicates a growing population.

Further data are necessary to confidently judge the population dynamics of this herd. The results of the recent surveys suggest this herd may be declining to stable. However, it appears this stability is on the fringe of the thresholds metrics to be classified as stable. Moreover, recent historical data showed the populations had been declining. Closing the Pink Mountain herd caribou hunt, even temporarily, would help increase the potential of success in the recovery efforts being implemented by the Province.

The Province is willing to re-assess the future of this harvest opportunity once the herd reaches a self-sustaining status, First Nation harvest is accounted, and predator control has ended. This guidance will be provided through the herd recovery plan.