Just days after British Columbia wildlife managers announced they would round up the last two members of a mountain caribou herd that haunts the international border country, Montana officials are reporting sightings in the northwestern corner of their state.
“The multiple sightings include the potential for a bull and a cow in separate locations,” Fish, Wildlife and Parks reported in a press release out yesterday.
As hunting seasons in the area continued, the agency urged sportsmen to be sure of their targets, as both sexes of adult caribou carry antlers.
The border-crossing South Selkirk herd has declined in recent years, with a particularly sharp drop reported earlier this year.
Where there were a dozen animals in late winter 2017, only a trio — all cows — were spotted during an intensive three-day survey this past March.
Kalispel Tribe biologist Bart George speculated that it was possible other members had been hit by an avalanche or there was a vehicle strike on the main Canadian highway through the mountains, though he didn’t hear of one.
Perhaps some struck out on their own instead.
The plan is to capture the two South Selkirk cows — the third was killed by a cougar this summer — and put with the last three bulls and a cow from the South Purcell herd in a pen 100 miles north of the border.
It’s hoped the animals will breed and a subpopulation could return to the Lower 48, according to a Spokane Spokesman-Review article out over the weekend.
It’s believed that clearcutting in mountain caribou habitat created plentiful browse for moose and other deer species to colonize the heights, and that in turn brought up more cougars, bears and wolves.
Unlike their cousins on the tundra, these caribou apparently didn’t recognize the predators as threats and have declined sharply as a result.