Be wildlife wise this winter
The mountains of southeastern British Columbia attract powder hounds from around the world. The deep snow is incredible for all kinds of recreation, from snowmobiling to skiing, snowshoeing to fat biking and more.
People aren’t the only pow-seekers around here, though. Special wildlife also thrive in our winters, including rare wolverines and mountain caribou. Bobcats, fishers, porcupine, mountain goats, grizzly bears and others also rely on the habitat here. Wolverines depend on deep snow for denning and mountain caribou “float” on top of deep snow to reach lichen (an important winter food source) in tall trees.
As backcountry recreationists, we need to do our part to not disturb these sensitive and threatened fellow snow-lovers. You can help limit impact on sensitive species such as mountain caribou and wolverines by being wildlife wise this winter.
What to know
Watch for caribou signs:
- As herd animals, caribou tend to migrate the same areas year-after-year. Look up caribou closures from the province before you head out.
Watch for wolverine signs:
- Wolverine tracks are distinct, often in a 2×2 or 3×3 pattern, in long, straight lines;
- Dens are deep holes in the snow, about 30 centimeters across. What helps set them apart from other holes are multiple tracks going to and from the hole and being near the treeline;
- Female wolverines are extremely sensitive. If you accidentally stumble on a den, take a photo and then leave the basin immediately. Even a single skier can cause a female to abandon her den. Don’t piss off a mama wolverine!
Before you go
As recreationists in the area, we share the landscape with some amazing, rare animals. By taking a few steps, help them thrive!
No matter how you’re enjoying the snow here are some tips to be wildlife wise this winter :
- Ski and ride responsibly. Follow and obey posted signs for wildlife in the area;
- Follow and locate closures for caribou;
- Stay alert, listen and watch for wildlife or signs of animals to reduce chances of an encounter;
- If you come across an animal, STOP. Don’t approach caribou or wolverine. If riding, turn off your engine. Wait until the animal has moved on and then leave. It’s best to find another area to ski or ride in;
- Take photos or video! These are rare animals and to see one is special. Drop a pin in a map so you can share the GPS coordinates later;
- If you see lone wolverine tracks in the mountains it’s a good indicator that you are in some wild country, but there is no need to turn around; wolverine can travel huge distances;
- If you see a network of wolverine tracks, there may be a wolverine den nearby — avoid the area;
- If you suspect a wolverine den, please avoid recreating in that basin during the denning season; February to May, especially if you see tracks on more than one occasion during that period; Additionally, wolverines may re-use dens, look for new sign in the next season;
- Report wolverine dens or tracks to wolverinewatch.org;
- Stay and play safe!
Enjoy the snow
Here are some tips for specific activities:
- Check out the BC Snowmobile Federation’s Environmental Stewardship and Operational Practices to learn about mountain caribou closure areas and how to reduce disturbance.
- If you’re going into the Central Selkirk mountains near Nakusp, Snowmobile Selkirks provides great information. You must be a member of one of the local clubs and can ride only in open areas.
- Around Revelstoke, Sled Revelstoke is a valuable resource. Detailed maps are provided or check in at the Welcome Center.
- Ride responsibly. Follow and obey posted signs. Prevent a wildlife encounter by being aware — reduce your noise and tune your eyes and ears.
Skiing and snowboarding
- If you’re a backcountry skier heading to a new area, make sure you know about any caribou closures and reach out to Wolverine Watch to find out what to look for and identifying tracks.
- Ski and shred responsibly. Follow and obey posted signs. Prevent a wildlife encounter by being aware and alert to sights and sounds of wildlife.
What to do and who to call
Regardless of your activity, if you see something, take a few extra steps:
- Post your sighting to Wolverine Watch – let regional researchers know you may have seen tracks or an animal. This will contribute to an even better understanding of wolverines in our region.
- If you see a caribou or caribou tracks, let the Ministry of Environment regional office in Nelson know by calling 250-354-6333.
- Tell your fellow skiers and riders. Let others know if there are places to avoid.
Thank you for being wildlife wise this winter.
Special thanks to the researchers who have helped us build a better understanding of sensitive wildlife in our region and thanks to the snowmobile clubs and backcountry ski associations for encouraging best practices while in the mountains. With well-managed recreation and making good choices, both people and wild animals can thrive in these amazing mountains we both call home.
Interested in doing more?
Attend a Wildlife Wise workshop
You can join a free virtual session near you in November or December. Learn what the experts recommend in sharing space with wildlife this winter.
Photos: Shutterstock and Pexels