PRINCE GEORGE, B.C. - Thrill-seeking snowmobilers east of Prince George, B.C., could be putting endangered mountain caribou at risk.

Environment ministry officials and conservation officers are warning snowmobilers to stay out of clearly marked areas designed to protect the animals.

Biologist Dale Siep says snowmobiles create well-packed highways for wolves, cougars and other predators.

He says mountain caribou rely on deep snow to create a barrier between them and their natural foes, but snowmobilers destroy that protection.

Conservation officer Todd Hunter says the problem is growing, and warns violators could face stiff fines for venturing into protected areas.

Officials estimate up to 98 per cent of the world's mountain caribou live in British Columbia and 800 animals, roughly half the entire population, lives in the region east of Prince George. (CKPG)

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