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The rout of the Caribou

The fate of the last great mega fauna in B.C. during this sixth extinction is not looking great. While immigrating to B.C. on a long, long cold drive from Alaska during January of 2010, I had the most amazing moment anyone could witness.

The fate of the last great mega fauna in B.C. during this sixth extinction is not looking great.

While immigrating to B.C. on a long, long cold drive from Alaska during January of 2010, I had the most amazing moment anyone could witness.

Driving down the highway with my white knuckles gripping the steering wheel from passing logging trucks, my truck's heater on high but only barely able to provide enough frost-free window space to be safe on the road during the minus-40 weather, unexpectedly after I summitted a peak, I was surrounded by a flowing heard of ungulates that reminded me of flowing water as they moved across the road.

These ungulates were the mountain caribou, also known as woodland caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou ). It was amazing to literally get stuck in this herd moving. The animals surrounded the vehicle and dispersed across the road and into the forest, and I was able to get one picture, when my awe had subsided.

I recall the drive as being very eye-opening as the last time I had drove through B.C. was on my way to move to Alaska. At this time, I did not really pay much attention to my surroundings, as I was focused on the eight-day journey from Kansas to my destination in Anchorage beside the Elmendorf Air Force Base.

As an outsider, not familiar with the sight of cut blocks at the time, seeing them over and over again, was a bit disturbing. I remember thinking, "where do these caribou go? There is not much forest here."

According to the B.C. government's Mountain Caribou in British Columbia: A Situation Analysis 2005, "spreading out over large areas at high elevations is essential for mountain caribou to avoid predators. In winter they occupy habitats that other ungulate species avoid. Deer, elk and moose commonly move to lower elevations to seek out areas with shallow snow and available food. The predators of these ungulates follow, leaving the subalpine forests to caribou. In summer other ungulates are more common in the high country and so are their predators; however, mountain caribou are relatively rare and spread out, which makes them infrequent prey for predators such as grizzly and black bears, wolves, cougars and wolverine."

According to The Globe And Mail, "briefing notes prepared for meetings between B.C. Environment Minister Mary Polak and industry representatives in 2014 suggest the government was prompted by the forest industry to launch the wolf cull because of fears a federal recovery plan for caribou would demand more logging areas be set aside."

According to the documents on the Species At Risk Public Registery and confirmed by discussions with a Lheidli T'enneh elder this past fall, "Aboriginal traditional knowledge holders stated that prior to the arrival of Europeans in north-eastern B.C., caribou populations were so high that they were described to be "like bugs on the land" (Willson 2014).

The mountains I view every morning outside my kitchen window were estimated in 2011 to maintain a population of 222 mountain caribou and decreasing.

A study by Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations according to the Vancouver Sun was, "designed to determine the cause behind a serious decline in moose populations in the Interior and how it might be related to beetle-killed lodgepole pine forests. The theory is that vast clearcuts and new logging roads have made the moose more vulnerable to hunting by humans and wild predators."

Moose populations in our region are very obviously down. Each year we see less and less sign of them around and

on the farm. Because of this, I chose not to hunt them despite my love of their taste.

With a smaller population of moose in our region and a smaller population of caribou, wolves are now seeking out other four-hooved animals to munch on near us.

Each night for the past several nights, wolves have surrounded our farm getting closer than they have ever been.

This past year, several local ranchers have lost huge numbers of animals from wolf predation. This leaves farmers and ranchers with hard decisions on how to manage the issue.

At our farm we noticed wolf populations rising or becoming more noticeable near our farm so we purchased a large maremma dog which fiercely protects his small flock of sheep to the detriment of my wife and I being able to sleep at night with his incessant barking. We often must tell ourselves, "well, he is doing the job we got him for, now hit the snooze button one more time."

Man always believes to know how to manage wildlife and nature, but with each decision we make however, there are always unforeseen consequences as nature's complex web far exceeds our ability to model and project.

Possibly one of the easiest things we could is to just use only what we truly need from nature and the rest can be left unmolested by capitalist greed.