Environment and Conservation
August 14, 2014

Responsible Investments in Sustainable Resource Management

Provincial Government Provides Update on George River Caribou Herd

The Provincial Government’s latest survey of the George River caribou herd, conducted in July 2014, has resulted in confirmation that the herd continues to decline significantly.

“As a government we know this herd is of critical importance to the people of Labrador and we have made significant investments into enhanced management, increased biological monitoring and improved collaboration with the Province of Quebec. Even with the implementation of a five-year moratorium on all hunting, and infusions of funding for monitoring and research, the herd continues to struggle.”
- The Honourable Vaughn Granter, Minister of Environment and Conservation

Biologists with the provinces of Newfoundland and Labrador, and Quebec conducted a photo census in July 2014 documenting 14,200 animals – down from 27,600 in 2012. Investigations continue to focus on causes of high adult mortalities and the low number of caribou surviving beyond six months of age. Both provinces have initiated discussions on the development of a joint management plan in collaboration with all resource users including Aboriginal governments and organizations.

In 2011, the Provincial Government announced a three-year, $1.9 million Labrador Caribou Initiative aimed at data collection in an effort to better understand the factors affecting the herd’s decline.

Budget 2014: Shared Prosperity, Fair Society, Balanced Outlook provides $975,000 over three years to fund a scientific monitoring and research program for the George River caribou herd.


  • The Provincial Government’s latest research shows the George River caribou herd has declined significantly despite research and investments. Once the largest caribou herd in the world, numbers have dropped by approximately 98 per cent in the past 20 years.
  • While migratory caribou populations are known to cycle and fluctuate naturally over periods of 40 to 70 years, tracking of GPS-collared caribou suggest high annual adult mortality levels are contributing to the decline of the population.
  • A caribou classification survey documenting the ratio of females, males and calves in the herd was conducted in October 2013 and showed less than 6.8 per cent calves in the population.
  • For a caribou population to grow or remain stable, 15 per cent of calves need to be recruited into the population and survive at least until their first fall.

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Media contact:

Deborah Thomas
Director of Communications
Department of Environment and Conservation
709-729-2575, 728-8092

2014 08 14                                    2:15 p.m.