Biologists from the Governments of Newfoundland and Labrador, and Quebec, with participation of a representative from the Ungava Peninsula Caribou Advisory Round Table (UPCART), conducted a census of the George River Caribou Herd in July.
The population survey shows the herd has further declined to 8,938 animals, down from the 2014 census which showed the population at 14,200.
The George River Caribou Herd is currently at a critically low population level of 8,938 animals.
“The results of this census show we are continuing to witness this herd moving toward extirpation,” said The Honourable Perry Trimper, Minister of Environment and Climate Change in a released statement. “This is tragic, not only for the ecosystem, but for the Aboriginal people of Labrador and Quebec who have utilized this herd as a resource. Our government is now assessing next steps to ensure the herd will be protected, and we once again call on individuals who value the herd to adhere to the current hunting ban.”
At the current rate of decline and without immediate cessation of illegal hunting, biologists predict this herd could become functionally extirpated in less than five years, meaning that the herd will become so small it will essentially lose its capacity to recover.
The George River Herd has decreased by 99 per cent since the early 1990s when the population was estimated at approximately 800,000 animals. This long-term decline has been attributed to deterioration in habitat conditions, food resources, predation and climate change. As the herd declined, hunting became unsustainable and the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador implemented a hunting ban on the herd in 2013. The ban will be maintained until March 2017, with the hunting closure beyond this point pending further review.