Labrador Dramatically Cuts Caribou Hunts

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The Newfoundland and Labrador officials are making significant cuts in caribou hunting after a new population count. The current government estimates put the George River herd at roughly 74,000 animals which is just 10% of the 776,000 estimated in 1993.

According to CBC News The government announced Tuesday it has abolished the commercial hunt and is forbidding outfitters from taking non-resident hunters on trips to the herd.

As well, a caribou license transfer program for Labrador residents — which allowed a license holder to arrange for someone else to hunt the animal — has been suspended. Licensed hunters will be allowed to kill one animal instead of the current limit of two.

With a 90% drop in herd counts in just 17 years, it seems that further studies should be undertaken to examine what caused the disappearance of 700,000 caribou.


ecubackpacker's picture

What in the world happened

What in the world happened here? Those estimates can't be right, can they?

Even if they change estimation models, can they be that far off?

WOW! Another hit for the economy and hunters in this region. I'm sure some outfitters will either go bankrupt or find a new line of work entirely. Sad to see for sure.

Could the gov't have been too greedy to not address this issue before now?

CVC's picture

It is tough on the

It is tough on the outfitters, but my concern gravitates toward hunters that have put down large down payments on hunts that will now not take place and with outfitters who may go bankrupt.  This means the hunters will be out of thousands of dollars.  Many of the hunters probably skimped, saved and worked overtime or two jobs to pay for the trip and now not only will the trip be lost but in many cases their hard earned money too.

This happened to many caribou hunters that booked with an outfitter in Quebec.  They lost beaucoup bucks and it hit them hard.

CVC's picture

Makes you wish you could be a

Makes you wish you could be a fly on the wall to hear the behind the scene conversations regarding this issue. 

hawkeye270's picture

Wow... that is a little bit

Wow... that is a little bit whacky. I am with you guys... why in the world did it take so long to react to this. The loss of 700,000 caribou does not seem like something that could just slip through the cracks. I am not familiar with the management of Nouflundland and Labrador's caribou herds but you can bet that I am going to be looking into this. I am kind of thinking that garorfan's assertion is pretty realistic.

I am not aware of any professors at my university that specifically work with caribou but I am sure a couple of them know about this decline and I will try and track some information down. The post says that they are making cuts after the new count. The other thing that sometimes can cause the population "estimates" to change is the particular models that the game managers are using. The models that are used to estimate population size are vastly complex. Different aspects of a population (such as fecundity, survivorship, recruitment etc) are measured in a study site and then these values are applied to models for populations that might be hundreds of miles from the study site. Sometimes managers will come up with new values for these models which will change population estimates by a lot. The Colorado division of wildlife just did this with their elk models a couple years ago and they saw that their was a fairly large difference in their estimates. Tag allocation was thus changed to match the new models. It is possible that part of the decline could be blamed on this but definitely not 700,000 animals. There must be a combination of factors taking place. Sorry I am not familiar with that particular example guys but I will look into it. 

gatorfan's picture

Mismanagement or they moved on?

Is this a case of complete and total mismanagement of this herd or has this herd just split up and moved on?  I would lean towards the latter.

Just a quick crunch of the numbers shows that from 1993 to 2001, there was and average of 134 head of caribou less per day.  And then from 2001 to 2010, there were 95 fewer per day.  Those numbers are way too big for the loss to be pointed towards hunting alone, in my opinion.

My guess is that they herd has split and found another migratory range.  But, without more information, we are left with the only twist this article has spun the numbers with. 

I'm interested to hear what Hawkeye has to say about this as he is actively studying similar subjects.

CVC's picture

I was thinking the same thing

I was thinking the same thing as you about Hawkeye as this seems right up his alley.  I just don't know how it can take almost 20 years to react.  Is their data collection and surveys so bad they just didn't notice until now?  I wonder what lessons we can learn from this about herd management in our country.

Ca_Vermonster's picture

Wow, if true, that is

Wow, if true, that is absolutely unbelievable that the herd has dropped by 90% in less than 20 years.  I have always wanted to caricou hunt, but I guess it won't be there.

CVC's picture

This is startleling news and

This is startleling news and my first thought is, uh oh, what about hunters who have already booked trips and paid deposits.  How will they be affected.  My second thought is what happened to the caribou?  Why did it take so long for the government to act if the herd has been decreasing over 17 years.  Sounds like they are taking some drastic action.  The caribou herds are huge and seemed endless.  I guess they aren't.  i wonder if it is a miscount or if the herd is really decreasing?