Concerns Rise as Caribou Numbers Fall

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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


ndemiter's picture

the caribou populations are

the caribou populations are down worldwide from what i understand. i know that in alaska, you have to apply for some uints, and it generally requires points to draw. i know that canada as a whole is down and i recently read something about greenland or iceland or something having trouble as well.

i remember reading stories that were "retold" in my american indians and paleo indian classes. stories of caribou herd fluctuation and famine were ofet told. we have such a brief view of these herds, scientifically, that it's hard for us to understand what is going on.

i applied my keen intelect to this ;) and i though that the warming climate and longer warm season may be affecting the ratios of lichens, forbes and grasses in their diet... not causing individuals any harm, but affecting the herd in things like recruitment rates and reporductive success. these trends will last and only show over long periods of time.

i am now sad that i had the oppertunity to hunt caribou in alaska in 2002 and did not take it. a decade later the population isn't what it was. i really just want a chance to hunt the migration and see the vast amount of game that our forefathers witnessed. that would be amazing. i have witnessed herds only as many as 50-100, i can't even imagine what seeing 5000 would be like or 30,000!

it's sad times to be an adventurous young buck, waking up feeling trapped in a concrete and steel cage. getting up at 5:00 am just to drive away from the city for the morning and try to remember what life was like before we had ourselves strapped down with houses and trucks and cell phones and typing on our laptops at panera. ;)

hunter25's picture

I just finished reading the

I just finished reading the article on the decline of the moose herds in Manitoba a few minutes ago and then I see this one lidted as well. Like I said before the decline of all these different herds in different regions is starting to really concern me. I don't know if I will ever get to hunt any of these animals but would like to think that a healthy population is awaiting me if ever the funds allow me to go. I had read an article about this herd nearly ten years ago adn it was on the decline then but not nearly as bad as now. I had thought they had it under control at that time but the latest survery shows otherwise.

Hopefully the new changes will have the desired affect and the herds will begin to rebound quickly. But I have a feeling that it will be a long while if ever that they return to there former glory.