The province is shutting down critical goat habitat areas on McKendrick Mountain to snowmobilers and any other motorized and non-motorized recreation for two years..
“An external source alerted the MFLNRORD (Ministry of Forests, Lands, and Natural Resource Operations, and Rural Development) to a decline in the McKendrick goat population over the last decade,” wrote Laura Green, a ministry biologist in a letter to the Smithers Snowmobile Association (SSA).
“The source states that the population has declined from 22 animals in 2012 to eight in 2021. While the MFLNRORD has plans to collect their own data on McKendrick, there appears to be an immediate conservation concern with this population of goats.
“I am in touch regarding recreation management for the purposes of goat conservation. You have been identified as a potentially affected stakeholder group. As you may already know, recreation and goat habitat often overlap, which can negatively affect goat populations through a number of mechanisms including increased stress levels and displacement from preferred habitat.”
The SSA doesn’t believe snowmobilers are an impact on this goat population but is asking that all snowmobilers avoid the identified areas.
It has also asked MFLNRORD for the closure area to be clearly marked for those who don’t know where it is.
Signage will be installed as soon as possible, and monitoring of compliance and the goat population will occur throughout the coming winter,” wrote Green. “We ask that you circulate this information to your members as soon as possible.”
The mechanisms driving the decline of McKendrick goats have not been assessed, however, threats to this herd may include health factors (e.g. orf virus), forest harvest, winter survival, climate change, and recreation activities.
McKendrick will need to be part of a broader conversation, but until then, the MFLNRORD is placing a two-year motorized and non-motorized year-round closure on McKendrick above the 1550m elevation mark. The closure area will be monitored.