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Environment and Conservation
Natural Resources
Labrador and Aboriginal Affairs
July 15, 2009

Provincial Wildlife Officials Plan George River Caribou Herd Census in 2010

The Honourable Charlene Johnson, Minister of Environment and Conservation, announced today that the province will be participating with other organizations in efforts to determine the current status and health of the George River caribou herd. This work will include a review of current management approaches and methods and will be informed primarily by a planned census of the George River caribou herd scheduled to be completed in 2010.

The George River caribou herd is the migratory forest-tundra ecotype of the woodland caribou, which migrates between forest and tundra in both Quebec and Labrador. The herd was last estimated in 2001 at about 385,000 animals.

�Caribou in Labrador provide considerable ecological, economic and recreational values to the residents of Newfoundland and Labrador as well as many visitors to Labrador,� said Minister Johnson. �It is incumbent on us as a managing authority to ensure we have up-to-date, accurate information on the status and trend of the herd. This government will ensure appropriate management measures are developed in response to this information as caribou are an important part of our culture and heritage.�

In collaboration with the Newfoundland and Labrador Departments of Environment and Conservation, and Natural Resources, the Nunatsiavut Government and the Institute for Environmental Monitoring and Research, the survey will be lead by biologists from the Government of Quebec in co-operation with the University of Laval. The work will involve collaring as many as 80 caribou, both males and females, from the George River herd, and subsequent surveys to determine population information such as the number of animals in the herd, the number of calves in the fall of the year and the ratio of males to females in the herd.

�Enforcement during the caribou hunting season in Labrador is a high priority for our conservation officers,� said the Honourable Kathy Dunderdale, Minister of Natural Resources and Minister Responsible for the Forestry and Agrifoods Agency. �This census will provide up-to-date information on the George River herd and is critical to the management of this resource. Our involvement in this project will help us understand and communicate to the public any new caribou management strategies that may need to be implemented.�

Minister Johnson noted that this work is crucial to understanding the dynamics of this caribou herd which forms such an important component of the Labrador landscape. The George River caribou herd decreased from a high of approximately 785,000 in 1993 to 385,000 in 2001. Recent preliminary evidence and observations from local people suggest that the population may be continuing its decline.

�If the results of the 2010 census confirm a continued decline, new caribou management strategies may need to be implemented for the 2010 fall hunting season to address the issue,� said Minister Johnson. �Updates on the results of the research and survey will be made available as the work progresses.�

The Honourable John Hickey, Minister of Labrador Affairs, stated that the George River caribou herd is a vital source of sustenance for many Labradorians and the hunting and gathering of caribou is part of a lifestyle that goes back many generations.

�The census will provide important data that will be used to formulate integrated long- term management plans for the significant big game wildlife populations of Labrador that incorporate social, cultural and economic objectives,� said Minister Hickey. �As such, this census will help fulfill yet another commitment by the Williams Government through the Northern Strategic Plan for Labrador.�

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Media contacts:

Tina Coffey
Public Relations Specialist
Department of Environment and Conservation
709-729-5783, 728-8650
Tracy Barron
Director of Communications
Department of Natural Resources
709-729-5282, 690-8241
John Tompkins
Director of Communications
Department of Labrador and Aboriginal Affairs

2009 07 15                                4:40 p.m.

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