Things are not looking good for the once abundant George River caribou herd in Labrador.
The latest census results show the herd, which numbered over 800,000 animals just 20 years ago, have dwindled to about 5,500—a 38 per cent decline since 2016, and a 99 per cent decline since 2001.
That, according to government officials, places the herd at its greatest known risk for total extirpation—meaning local extinction.
Biologists from Newfoundland and Labrador and Quebec completed the census in July with the direct participation of Indigenous representatives from both provinces.
Studies show there are low levels of habitat disturbance, local wolf populations appear low over the herd’s range and the animals appear to be healthy with decreasing prevalence of parasites.
Surveys of calves born in 2016 and 2017 show good numbers born into the population.
Minister Gerry Byrne calls the continued declines in the herd “serious and disturbing.”