Sixty percent of the province’s mountain goats live in the Skeena region. (Contributed photo)

Sixty percent of the province’s mountain goats live in the Skeena region. (Contributed photo)

Province planning to protect Bulkley Valley mountain goat habitat

Bulkley Valley last in area to get order because its population is at lowest risk: biologist.

The Ministry of Forestry, Lands, and Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development (FLNRO) is currently working on a plan to protect mountain goat habitat in the Bulkley region.

Ecosystem biologist in the Skeena Region with FLNRO Len Vanderstar, and Sean Sharpe, an environmental consultant and zoologist, made a presentation to Telkwa council last week. They presented a draft plan to regulate usage in goat habitat to protect the species.

“This is the last order for mountain goats along Highway 37 and 16,” said Vanderstar. “They have one of the lowest risks of mountain goat populations because the [Land and Resource Management Plan] was pretty good.”

“We’ve established mountain goat orders all along the north coast: Kalum, the Nass, the Lakes, Kispiox, Fort St. James area,” he said. “The Bulkley is the last piece of the puzzle.”

There are about 1,000 goats, give or take a few hundred, in the Bulkley Timber Supply Area (TSA). Sixty percent of B.C.’s goat population resides in the Skeena region.

Vanderstar said this is a legal direction for forestry but there is no impact over the timber harvest land base. However, there is a condition trying to minimize disturbance of goats within 1 km of the winter range.

“We aren’t locking down the wood supply,” he said.

Along with talking with First Nations and forestry companies, Vanderstarr also met with the Smithers Exploration Group.

Vanderstar isn’t too worried about conflict with recreation users; the critical and stressful time for goats is in the winter and snowmobilers but goats usually use different terrain.

“We have about 300 goats in the Telkwa mountains but they aren’t where the snowmobilers go, they are typically in Emerson where the steep slopes are, or Crater Lake where there are cliffs. Snowmobilers aren’t on those rocky bluffs,” he said.

Recreation Sites and Trails B.C. will still need a referral from the ministry before building any new trails in goat habitat.

Vanderstar said there is a special study going on now in the Blunt and Seaton areas.

“We are looking into whether the mountain goat management units are too big, we suspect they are. Could be changes in management areas. Goats are blue-listed, not endangered, so we have to watch them,” he explained.

He added there is debate about closing the hunting season in November instead of February but more discussions need to happen with guide outfitters.