Torn­gat cari­bou herd still quite small

Sec­ond sur­vey of herd shows prom­ise, and con­cern

The Labradorian - - Front Page - BY EVAN CAREEN

A sur­vey was re­cently com­pleted on the Torn­gat Moun­tain Cari­bou herd, the sec­ond in it’s his­tory. The herd is es­ti­mated at ap­prox­i­mately 1426, up from the 2014 es­ti­mate of 930. How­ever, re­searchers are hes­i­tant to see that means there’s an in­crease in the herd.

Jamie Snook, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Torn­gat Wildlife, Plants and Fish­eries Sec­re­tar­iat, said they would need to get more sur­veys done to get a more ac­cu­rate pic­ture of num­bers.

“A lot of what you’re see­ing in the Torn­gat Moun­tains herd are the first doc­u­men­ta­tion and sur­vey of the herd,” he said. “We’re still try­ing to see the full pic­ture. We’re ex­cited to have a suc­cess­ful field ef­fort and be able to do a sur­vey in the Torn­gat Moun­tains, given the en­vi­ron­ment that it’s in. Within the re­sults there were cer­tainly pos­i­tive signs and at the same time there were sill signs to be con­cerned about as well.”

In 2016 the Com­mit­tee on the Sta­tus of En­dan­gered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) as­sessed the sta­tus of the Torn­gat cari­bou as En­dan­gered based largely on the in­her­ent risk as­so­ci­ated with its small pop­u­la­tion size.

Snook said while these re­sults may be en­cour­ag­ing, the herd size is still small and re­quires at­ten­tion.

“The groups that were spot­ted in­creased but the av­er­age group size al­most dou­bled and the calf rate was at 23 per cent. Un­der nor­mal con­di­tions that should al­low for the herd to grow. The cau­tion­ary part to put with that is over­all 1300 an­i­mals is still a small num­ber of cari­bou over The Torn­gat Moun­tain herd is quite small . Cari­bou

such a vast area.”

He said they also know that tra­di­tion­ally these cari­bou would have come quite far south of He­bron but in both sur­veys they didn’t find any that far south and most were counted in the north­ern area. The Torn­gat Moun­tains are quite re­mote, which has been a chal­lenge in de­ter­min­ing the size of the herd.

“The range of the cari­bou is still quite small com­pared to where it has been in the past. While it’s en­cour­ag­ing we still have to be very pre­cau­tion­ary and take this into

ac­count on a go for­ward ba­sis.”

Snook said the im­pe­tus for the sur­vey­ing of the herd was con­cern from nearby com­mu­ni­ties, such as Nain. Peo­ple were wor­ried they were see­ing less cari­bou in the Torn­gat Moun­tains, he said, and so in 2009 they be­gan to work on this sur­vey. There were a num­ber of lo­gis­ti­cal chal­lenges, he said.

“The first chal­lenge was to de­ter­mine where the range of these cari­bou were. That was done bases on tra­di­tional knowl­edge of Inuit in the re­gion. Then we had to find a safe way to fly that en­tire area, where it’s so re­mote and so rugged. To put it in con­text, for this 2017 sur­vey we flew 7700 km. As the crow flies that’s like fly­ing from Goose Bay to Van­cou­ver and back.”

He said it took 28 days to fly all that area be­tween Okak Bay and Killiniq Is­land

and they were lucky that the weather co­op­er­ated, for the most part, and ev­ery­thing worked out.

“Things like putting fuel out for he­li­copters, find­ing skilled pi­lots and crew, there were a lot of vari­ables that could have went wrong,” Snook said. “Just get­ting this done was a suc­cess.”

The study was a joint ef­fort of a num­ber of bod­ies, such as the sec­re­tar­iat, Parks Canada, Nu­natsi­avut and the gov­ern­ments of Que­bec and New­found­land and Labrador.

“Get­ting that level of col­lab­o­ra­tion is not al­ways easy either and this was the sec­ond time we were able to do it with this herd,” Snook said.

He said now they’re look­ing for­ward to the 2020 sur­vey and have be­gun to pre­pare.

For more de­tailed in­for­ma­tion and to ac­cess the sur­vey visit www.torn­gat­sec­re­ home/files/cat6/2017-re­sults_ of_a_spring_2017_aeri­al_­sur­vey_of_the_­torn­gat_­moun­tains_ cari­bou_herd.pdf.


Project field team of the Torn­gat Moun­tains Cari­bou Herd sur­vey, spring 2017. From left to right: Serge Cou­turier, wildlife bi­ol­o­gist con­sul­tant; Steve Lodge, he­li­copter pi­lot; Aaron Dale, project man­ager for the Torn­gat Wildlife and Plants...



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