Environment and Climate Change
February 02, 2017
Protecting Wildlife Resources
Minister Trimper Advises that the George River Caribou Herd is Critically Vulnerable During Winter Months
The Department of Environment and Climate Change is reminding residents that the hunting ban for the George River Caribou remains in effect and is essential to the herd's recovery. While a significant portion of the remaining animals in the George River Caribou Herd are wintering near the communities of Nain and Natuashish, this visible presence should not be interpreted as a resurgence in the herd's population. A July 2016 census revealed a total of only 8,938 caribou remaining in this herd and any mortality would be of concern.
“The need for conservation of the George River Herd and all caribou in Labrador is paramount. It is imperative to again remind communities that the presence of the herd is in no way reflective of any improvement in the herd’s numbers. It is not an exaggeration to say that the caribou being seen are some of the last remaining animals in the herd. We will continue to work with our colleagues in Quebec and with Aboriginal governments and organizations to make sound decisions about future conservation strategies and ensure we do everything we can to stabilize the George River Herd.”
- The Honourable Perry Trimper, Minister of Environment and Conservation
Letters advising the status of the herd and its significant vulnerability have been sent to the leadership of the Nunatsiavut Government, the Innu Nation, the NunatuKavut Community Council, as well as the Labrador Hunting and Fishing Association. In previous years, a series of meetings and consultations between the Provincial Government and Labrador communities were held to share research findings and have dialogue regarding the importance of the hunting ban, and similar meetings are anticipated to take place in the coming weeks. Additional information on the George River Caribou Herd and the hunting ban can be found in the backgrounder below.
“Biologists advise that the harvesting ban is essential at this time. Otherwise, the herd could become so small within three to five years it will lose its capacity to recover. This is tragic, not only for the ecosystem, but for the people of Labrador and Quebec who have utilized these animals as a resource. Our government is now assessing next steps to ensure the herd will be protected, and we once again call on everyone to adhere to the current hunting ban.”
- Minister Trimper
The George River Herd has now decreased by 99 per cent since the early 1990s when the population was estimated at approximately 800,000 animals. This high population level is thought to have resulted in deterioration of habitat and food resources for caribou and this is what initiated the population decline. Once the decline phase was underway, additional factors including predation, hunting and possibly climate change became increasingly significant.
- The Department of Environment and Climate Change is reminding residents that the hunting ban for the George River Caribou remains in effect and is essential to the herd's recovery.
- A significant portion of the remaining animals in the George River Caribou Herd are wintering near the communities of Nain and Natuashish. This visible presence should not be interpreted as resurgence in the herd's population.
- A July 2016 census of the herd revealed a total of only 8,938 caribou remaining in this herd and a hunting ban remains in place.
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Media Relations Manager
Department of Environment and Climate Change
The George River Caribou Herd
Research and monitoring of the George River Caribou Herd being conducted by the Department of Environment and Climate Change, in cooperation with the Government of the Quebec, includes the tracking of caribou fitted with satellite telemetry collars which allows biologists to track the movements of the herd. The collar information shows that some of the caribou are currently on or very close to the coast and are once again vulnerable to those who would hunt contrary to the harvesting ban.
The ban on hunting George River Caribou Herd was enacted in January 2013 and applies to all people in Labrador, including areas under existing and pending land claims. The ban is intended to relieve the herd from all hunting pressure to allow it to recover.
In July 2016 the most recent population census was conducted and found that only 8,938 caribou remain. In October 2016, annual classification surveys were conducted and Provincial Government biologists determined the proportion of females, males and new calves being recruited into the population. After three years of some modest improvements, the calf recruitment rate dropped this year to 18.3 per cent, down from 20 per cent in 2015. The proportion of large males (which are believed to be the dominant breeders) also declined this year to 4.7 per cent, down from 5.2 per cent in 2015.
The census findings and the classification results together indicate that the population is still continuing to decline, and if current rates of mortality continue, the capacity of the herd to recover in any desirable time frame will essentially be lost. In light of this critical situation, the status of the herd with respect to listing under the provincial Endangered Species Act, and the federal Species at Risk Act is currently being reviewed.
2017 02 02 1:40 p.m.