Concerns Rise as Caribou Numbers Fall
There are a handful of different caribou herds in Nunavik, Quebec. There may have been close to a million caribou at the beginning of the decade, and now those numbers may be down to 300,000.
A decrease of 80% for the George River herd has many people scrambling to determine what is going on, and how to manage the caribou before there are greater losses. It was suggested that this is just cyclical with the caribou, numbers go up and down, but researchers think there's more to it.
There is more development, Caribou seem very sensitive to development, staying at least 20 km away from roads. Their habitat is changing, which then changes their lifestyle. The threat of global climate changes also may play a factor, with a longer season there may be more foliage for the animals- but it might later disrupt their migration- see quote below.
Quebec is acting by making changes to the caribou sport hunt that usually takes at least 40,000 from the Leaf Bay and George River herds. They cut the Leaf Bay herd permits by 25%, shortened the hunt, and is allowing only 1 of each sex caribou per hunter. For the George River herd they are taking more drastic measures; the permits were reduced by half, and a shorter season, but in some areas hunting is closed completely. These changes will be reviewed next year.
Some suggest the warming climate is connected to several drownings which have been recorded over the past 30 years:. From Nunatsiaq Online.
• in 1984, when about 10,000 caribou died in the Caniapiscau River near Kuujjuaq;
• in 1998, when a large number of large male bull caribou appear to have drowned while attempting to cross Minto Lake, 100 km northeast of Umiujaq;
• and in 2007, when more than 300 dead caribou were spotted floating down the Kuujjuaq River about 150 km south of Kuujjuaq