Caribou were once great in numbers in the eastern British Columbia. However, the numbers have plummeted to the point that now they are considered as endangered Caribou. Moreover, some herds can be counted on two hands. This is majorly because more people went west and their logging, mining, and dam operations wiped up old-growth woods and changed the environment.
In 2000, Caribou had been categorized as federally vulnerable. As a result, Willson and his people, as well as their Saulteau First Nations neighbors took matters into their own hands.
They started killing wolves, protecting pregnant caribou, and rehabilitating important habitats. They are now at the forefront of caribou conservation. It was a nine year long program. Which was mainly targeted at rescuing the Klinse-Za herd.
Southern mountain caribou, or Klinse-Za, are a subspecies of caribou that used to be widely spread in the old-growth forests of south-central British Columbia. Mountain caribou do not migrate in large herds or congregate in herds of tens of thousands.
Only 38 Klinse-Za caribou remained when the project began in 2013. The herd has now tripled to 114 animals owing to the efforts of the West Moberly and Saulteau. Clayton Lamb, a researcher described it as “a dramatic recovery from the brink of extirpation, or local extinction.” This was all possible because of the indigenous people. They took the matter in their own hands.
West Moberly and Saulteau want to eventually restore the Klinse-Za to the point where indigenous hunters can once again collect them. For West Moberly alone they wanted to necessitate a herd of more than 3,000 animals.
Wilson stated that he does not anticipate seeing such figures in his lifetime. However, he is optimistic that his grandchildren will. “The whole community is proud of this,” he said. “It’s something that should be celebrated. In saving caribou, we’re saving ourselves.”