Pop­u­la­tion of Ge­orge River cari­bou herd con­tin­ues to dwin­dle

2018 cen­sus es­ti­mates just 5,500 an­i­mals re­main

The Aurora (Labrador City) - - News -

The dra­matic de­cline of the Ge­orge River cari­bou herd shows no signs of a turn­around, ac­cord­ing to the lat­est cen­sus con­ducted in July.

The 2018 cen­sus – con­ducted by bi­ol­o­gists from New­found­land and Labrador and Que­bec this sum­mer with the di­rect par­tic­i­pa­tion of In­dige­nous rep­re­sen­ta­tives from both prov­inces – puts the size of the herd at 5,500 an­i­mals.

That’s a 38 per cent drop from two years ago and a 99 per cent de­cline since 2001, when the herd was es­ti­mated at 385,000 an­i­mals.

Har­vest re­stric­tions, in­clud­ing the end of com­mer­cial hunt­ing, were trig­gered when the pop­u­la­tion dropped to an es­ti­mated 74,000 cari­bou in 2010. The pop­u­la­tion in 2016 was es­ti­mated to be 8,900, even though hunt­ing had been com­pletely shut down.

Fish­eries and Land Re­sources Min­is­ter Gerry Byrne called the con­tin­ued de­cline of the herd “se­ri­ous and dis­turb­ing.”

“My depart­ment con­tin­ues to reach out to Labrador In­dige­nous gov­ern­ments and com­mu­ni­ties, the Gov­ern­ment of Que­bec, and the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment to de­velop a co­man­age­ment ap­proach that would sup­port the re­cov­ery of th­ese iconic and vi­tal an­i­mals,” he said in a re­lease to­day, Sept. 21.

The Ge­orge River cari­bou herd’s range is re­mote, with cur­rently low lev­els of habi­tat dis­tur­bance, ac­cord­ing to the re­lease.

Wolf abun­dance is be­ing mon­i­tored and seems to be quite low over the herd range, and test­ing shows cari­bou are cur­rently healthy with de­creas­ing preva­lence of par­a­sites.

Sur­veys of re­cruit­ment car­ried out in October 2016 and 2017 doc­u­mented good num­bers of calves born into the pop­u­la­tion.

In 2017, at the re­quest of In­dige­nous gov­ern­ments and com­mu­ni­ties in Labrador, the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment de­cided against a rec­om­men­da­tion by the Com­mit­tee on the Sta­tus of En­dan­gered Wildlife in Canada to list the Ge­orge River cari­bou herd as en­dan­gered.

In­stead, an agree­ment was reached to de­velop a co-man­age­ment ap­proach be­tween In­dige­nous gov­ern­ments and com­mu­ni­ties and the Gov­ern­ment of New­found­land and Labrador.

CON­TRIB­UTED

The Ge­orge River cari­bou herd.

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