Rosslanders heading into the backcountry to snowmobile now have to contend with closure to one of the region’s prime terrains.
In an effort to help protect mountain caribou habitat and support British Columbia’s Mountain Caribou Recovery Implementation Plan, the province has closed the South Selkirk mountains east of Salmo, the South Purcells of Kootenay Lake north and north, as well as Cranbrook and Creston backcountry areas.
Natural resource officers and conservation officers are patrolling the backcountry this winter to enforce snowmobiling regulations and the area closures.
The closures are intended to help boost mountain caribou populations in the area. Snowmobile activity can affect the animals’ behaviour, prompting them to move into less suitable habitat where the food supply is not as plentiful or where their activity in steep terrain could create avalanche hazards.
“Under the Mountain Caribou Recovery Implementation Plan, scientists recommended over one million hectares across the mountain caribou range be closed to motorized winter recreation to facilitate recovery of caribou populations,” read a provincial release on the closure.
Since 2009, government has closed areas to snowmobile use across the mountain caribou range in order to support population recovery.
If mountain caribou are forced out of an area unnecessarily, the caribous’ energy reserves can be depleted during this critical time of the year.
Failure to comply with the regulations or co-operate with officers could result in fines or equipment seizures. Continued non-compliance could result in increased closures in the area.
Province-wide, closures are in effect in a total of 60 areas frequented by the mountain caribou, an endangered species in British Columbia.
Maps showing the locations of these closed areas are available online at: http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/fw/wildlife/snowmobile-closures/
Areas of particular concern this winter include: Silvercup Ridge, Mt. Grace, Standard Peak, Sale Mountain, Frisby Ridge, Catamount Glacier, North Star Glacier and the Upper Spillimacheen River area.
People who encounter mountain caribou while snowmobiling in an unrestricted area should take the following precautions:
* Do not approach the animals.
* Turn off all snowmobile engines and give the caribou a chance to move away.
* Leave the area as soon as it is practical to do so.
* Avoid riding within sight of the animals.
Snowmobilers should also be aware that it is illegal to damage young trees in reforested areas or operate a snowmobile on plowed forest service roads.
To view an interactive map showing areas where snowmobiling activities are currently restricted to support mountain caribou recovery (or to download the information for viewing on a GPS device or in Google Earth), visit: http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/fw/wildlife/snowmobile-closures/.
For information on snowmobiling regulations, visit: http://www.snowmobile.gov.bc.ca, or contact a local Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations office, snowmobile club or FrontCounter BC office.
To learn about mountain caribou, visit the Mountain Caribou Recovery website at: http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/wld/speciesconservation/mc/index.html.