The provincial government says the George River Caribou Herd in Labrador could be wiped out within five years unless something is done to stop the population from declining.
According to the latest survey, the herd has declined to 8,938 animals, down from the 2014 census which showed the population at 14,200. That’s a 99 per cent decline since the early 1990s when more than 800,000 caribou roamed the Labrador wilderness. Environment Minister Perry Trimper says he expected the numbers to be low.
He was not surprised to see the decline because they have been documenting the decline, but he was shocked to see evidence that there is a relationship between ongoing illegal hunting and the decrease in population.
Biologists from the Governments of Newfoundland and Labrador, and Quebec, and a representative from the Ungava Peninsula Caribou Advisory Round Table conducted the census in July.
Trimper says the caribou population decline is not exclusive to this province. He says it is happening everywhere.
He says populations around the world are in decline, but the problem here is the ban implemented back in 2013, but not everyone stopped taking the animals.
Trimper says that illegal hunting has to stop. He hopes groups that have continued to hunt will understand that things have changed and technology for hunters has improved allowing easier access to the herd, which has reached a critically low level.
Trimper is also calling on people who value the herd to adhere to the current hunting ban which was imposed in 2013 and will remain in place until at least next year. He says the long-term decline has been attributed to deterioration in habitat conditions, food resources, predation and climate change.