Newfoundland and Labrador Boreal Woodland Caribou are Protected

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The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador warned today that it will not tolerate the killing of the threatened boreal woodland caribou in Labrador, and that provincial conservation officers will enforce the laws that protect the animals.

"While government does support hunting on non-protected, George River caribou in open zones, we do not support the hunting of a threatened species," said the Honourable Kathy Dunderdale, Minister of Natural Resources and Minister Responsible for the Forestry and Agrifoods Agency. "The woodland caribou in the Joir River area number only around 100 animals and are protected under both the Provincial Endangered Species Act and the Federal Species at Risk Act."

Officials with the department were informed last week that there are indications members of the Quebec Innu will be making their way into Labrador again to conduct a hunt of resident woodland caribou in the Joir River area. Additional information suggests that illegal hunting of boreal woodland caribou may be occurring along other parts of the southern Labrador boundary, and attempts to ascertain the nature and extent of this activity may also be undertaken in the coming weeks.

"We fully appreciate that caribou hunting is an integral part of the traditional Innu life, but we cannot tolerate a disregard for the laws established by the Provincial Government to protect threatened caribou herds," Minister Dunderdale added. "This hunt could result in the local decimation of the resident woodland caribou in the Joir River area. There are healthy caribou herds in Labrador and zones that are open to hunting, but that is not the case in this area with this particular herd."

Earlier this month, conservation officers with the department identified a group of Quebec Innu hunters on the Labrador side of the border with Quebec, south of Happy Valley-Goose Bay. Members of the hunting party were warned that woodland caribou in the Joir River area are protected and the taking of these animals is illegal. The woodland caribou were not near migratory caribou that can be hunted legally. Officers patrolled the area until the hunters left. No evidence of caribou kills was discovered.

"Over the past number of years officials with both departments of Natural Resources and Environment and Conservation have met with and informed the Quebec Innu about vulnerable state of the woodland caribou and emphasized the importance of the conservation measures that have been established to protect these animals," Minister Dunderdale said. "Quebec Innu are fully aware of the regulations and why they are required, and this was reiterated directly to the hunting party by our officers. We ask that they respect the provincial and federal laws designed to conserve these threatened animals."

Conservation officers have been conducting patrols in the area all winter and will continue to patrol and enforce the wildlife and endangered species acts. The movement of hunters is being closely monitored and officers are ready to respond if any further action is required.

The Department of Environment and Conservation, in co-operation with Natural Resources and native groups in Labrador, has recently undertaken extensive surveys and collaring efforts to more closely examine the range and distribution of these threatened animals and to explore means to mitigate against further declines.