Nunavik’s Leaf River caribou herd “decreasing,” survey concludes

Quebec promises “very stringent management”


Poor survival of adults and the birth of fewer calves show Nunavik's Leaf Bay herd is in a

Poor survival of adults and the birth of fewer calves show Nunavik’s Leaf Bay herd is in a “declining phase,” a 2011 population survey has concluded. (FILE PHOTO)

The results of the 2011 population survey of Nunavik’s Leaf River caribou herd are in.

The survey established the size of the herd at 430,000 caribou — give or take about 98,000 animals, Quebec’s Minister of Natural Resources and Wildlife Serge Simard announced Nov. 11.

Adult survival rate and the number of calves produced are low, said a government news release.

That indicates that this herd is in “a decreasing phase,” confirming what biologists have said about the size and health of the herd.

“Although the population of the LRH (Leaf River herd) is still relatively large, we must keep exercising care, since biological monitoring indicate(s) that the herd size is decreasing. It is therefore important to maintain very stringent management objectives,” Simard said.

Some outfitters in Nunavik maintain caribou numbers had been previously overestimated and that the caribou hunts have never been better.

The George River caribou herd, once one of the more plentiful herds in the region, saw its population drop from 385,000 in 2001 to to 74,000 in 2010 — an 81 per cent decrease.

A 2011 follow-up shows the adult survival rate and the number of calves produced remain “very low,” and that the herd has continued to decline in 2011.

“These recent survey and follow-up results confirm that we must devote specific attention to both herds. We are pursuing our work with the Hunting, Fishing and Trapping Coordinating Committee. We wish to announce the hunting measures for the 2012–2013 season before mid-December. Of course, these will have to take into account the decreasing size of the herds,” Simard said.

Earlier this year Simard’s department announced cuts to the Nunavik caribou hunt for 2011.

That hunt accounts for some the 40,000 caribou hunted every year from the Leaf and George River herds.

Quebec announced a 25 per cent cut to the number of permits handed out for the Leaf Bay herd in Nunavik, shortened the hunt there, and limited the number of caribou that could be bagged to two caribou of either sex per hunter. For the George River Herd, the number of sports permits were reduced by half, some areas were closed to all hunting, and the season was shortened.

For 2012, outfitters can expect to see more restrictions on the length of the caribou hunting season and on the numbers of permits handed out.

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