Cari­bou coming back to North­ern Penin­sula’s Grey Is­lands

Prov­ince plans to re-lo­cate 15 cari­bou from St. An­thony herd

Northern Pen - - Front Page - BY STEPHEN ROBERTS

Cari­bou will soon be re­turn­ing to Grey Is­lands off the Great North­ern Penin­sula.

In a news re­lease on Nov. 30, the Depart­ment of Fish­eries and Land Re­sources re­vealed it will be in­tro­duc­ing a max­i­mum of 15 cari­bou from the St. An­thony herd to the Grey Is­lands in 2019-20 in an ef­fort to re-es­tab­lish a res­i­dent cari­bou pop­u­la­tion.

This is the sec­ond time the gov­ern­ment has brought cari­bou to the Grey Is­lands.

In 1964 eight cari­bou were in­tro­duced.

“The Grey Is­lands are a nat­u­ral, pro­duc­tive habi­tat for cari­bou,” Fish­eries and Land Re­sources Min­is­ter Gerry Byrne told The North­ern Pen. “That was the ba­sis for the orig­i­nal in­tro­duc­tion back in 1964.”

Ac­cord­ing to Byrne, by 1975 the pop­u­la­tion had in­creased to 100 an­i­mals. Five hunt­ing li­censes were is­sued that year.

By the 1990s, the pop­u­la­tion had in­creased to a max­i­mum of 575 an­i­mals. In 1992, Byrne says 150 hunt­ing li­censes were is­sued.

How­ever, re­cent sur­veys sug­gest the herd is now near zero.

Byrne doesn’t be­lieve hunt­ing was re­spon­si­ble for the de­cline, say­ing there were a host of other fac­tors, with habi­tat degra­da­tion chief among them.

“It wasn’t the num­ber of li­censes per se, it was prob­a­bly a com­bi­na­tion of habi­tat degra­da­tion, lim­ited food sources and, po­ten­tially, be­cause an­i­mals are weak­ened and be­cause of in­creased com­pe­ti­tion, par­a­sites and dis­ease can take hold,” he said. “Af­ter that, the pop­u­la­tion quickly de­clined.”

So how will the prov­ince pre­vent the same sit­u­a­tion from re­cur­ring?

Byrne says the gov­ern­ment will take mea­sures to sus­tain the cari­bou on the Grey Is­lands in the long-term and pre­vent large fluc­tu­a­tions in the pop­u­la­tion.

“What’s dif­fer­ent this time is the knowl­edge around the pop­u­la­tion cy­cle,” he said. “We’ve be­come acutely aware of the fact that while (the Grey Is­lands are) a very nat­u­rally pro­duc­tive en­vi­ron­ment for cari­bou, greater ef­fort must be taken in keep­ing the pop­u­la­tion in check with the over­all habi­tat ca­pac­ity.

“Good wildlife man­age­ment will lead to a stable, per­ma­nent herd on the Grey Is­lands,” Byrne pre­dicts.

Byrne said he be­lieves this can be done by pre­vent­ing pre­da­tion of cari­bou by other an­i­mals, en­sur­ing the only preda­tors on the is­land are hu­man hun­ters.

“It’s hard to con­trol the ac­tiv­ity of preda­tors, but it’s very easy to un­der­stand and be aware of and con­trol the ac­tiv­ity of hun­ters,” he said.

The first step will en­tail con­trol­ling pre­da­tion of cari­bou by scan­ning for and re­mov­ing any preda­tors from the is­land, in­clud­ing wolves and coy­otes.

These preda­tors will be cap­tured by tran­quil­izer and net be­fore any cari­bou are in­tro­duced.

Without pre­da­tion and a favourable habi­tat for cari­bou,

Byrne an­tic­i­pates the pop­u­la­tion will once again grow quickly.

Af­ter a few years of growth in the herd, hunt­ing will be rein­tro­duced on the is­lands.

The min­is­ter be­lieves this will be the best pop­u­la­tion con­trol mech­a­nism, keep­ing the an­i­mal from out­strip­ping the habi­tat ca­pac­ity.

“The ob­jec­tive now is to pre­vent the highs and lows and to keep the pop­u­la­tion stable, through the in­tro­duc­tion of one type of preda­tor and one type of preda­tor only – and that is the hunter,” he said.

Byrne says the gov­ern­ment de­cided to in­tro­duce 15 in­stead of eight an­i­mals this time in or­der to im­prove the ge­netic distri­bu­tion of the herd.

The trans­fer of cari­bou is a $15,000 ini­tia­tive for the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment.

The news re­lease back­grounder says the St. An­thony cari­bou herd is per­form­ing well and will not be im­pacted by the trans­fer of cari­bou.

The Grey Is­lands con­sist of two is­lands, Bell Is­land to the south and Groais Is­land to the north.

The is­lands are lo­cated off the east­ern side of the Great North­ern Penin­sula.

STEPHEN ROBERTS – THE NORTH­ERN PEN

Cari­bou on the Great North­ern Penin­sula. The an­i­mal will be rein­tro­duced to the Grey Is­lands lo­cated off the east­ern side of the penin­sula.

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