Patrols looking for snowmobilers going into areas closed for caribou habitat near Blue River will continue until the end of the season, according to Clearwater-based Conservation Officer Warren Chayer.
Chayer noted that mountain caribou populations have declined significantly and are very low in the North Thompson.
The weekend before last two people were charged and their snow-bikes seized for beng inside a closed area (Berry/Peddie) near Blue River.
The area is known to be the wintering ground for the largest number of caribou in this region, Chayer said. Five caribou were seen in the area during one of the helicopter flights that led to the charges.
Unlike some other closed areas in the region, this one has no open riding area enclosed within it and so the two persons charged had no excuse for being there, he commented.
During the patrols several small intrusions (less than 100 m) into closed areas were noted, as well as a few major (100 – 1,000 m) in the area around Chappell Creek.
“Given that there were anywhere between 65-130 riders daily in the major areas of Chappell and Allan Creek, compliance was generally okay,” Chayer said.
A snowfall on Feb. 16 also kept snowmobilers content in the Chappell area on Feb. 17, he added.
The former “Three-Fingers” riding area, which was closed last year, was assessed on three consecutive days with no new tracks into it. The “Coulees” riding area nearby was opened last year.
Approximately 100 riders were verbally contacted and many more observed the conservaton officers’ trucks and snowmobiles in the various staging areas and around the communities.
Chayer noted that there are lots of signs around indicating which areas are closed.
He said that it is the snowmobilers’ responsibility to know where they are recreating and that they can easily download digital files to locate boundaries and trails.
Georeferenced maps and digital file downloads are available at: www.env.gov.bc.ca/fw/wildlife/snowmobile-closures or www.snowmobile.gov.bc.ca/ (this link is probably the best for closure maps, he said).
Provincial information on caribou is at: www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/environment/plants-animals-ecosystems/wildlife/wildlife-conservation/caribou