Recovery Strategy Released for Woodland Caribou Herds

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Tom Osborne, Minister of Environment and Conservation, released a recovery strategy for three boreal woodland caribou herds in Labrador, which are listed as threatened under the province’s Endangered Species Act.

The strategy identifies recovery goals and objectives for the Lac Joseph, Red Wine Mountains and Mealy Mountains caribou herds which have suffered population declines. There has also been a decline in the caribou herds’ distribution and use of available habitat.

A recovery team consisting of wildlife and resource managers, researchers, aboriginal organizations and stakeholders was formed to develop a recovery strategy for the three herds within two years of being listed, as required under the Endangered Species Act. The herds were listed as threatened under the act in July 2002.

Minister Osborne said government is committed to the conservation and protection of the province’s species that are at risk. "Preserving our natural heritage is a priority for us, and this strategy will allow us to move forward in our efforts to ensure the recovery and preservation of these three distinct caribou herds," said the minister. "I commend all members of the recovery team for their efforts and dedication to this important work. We must continue to work together and take the appropriate action that will see the successful recovery of these caribou for future generations."

The recovery strategy outlines several steps in such areas as stewardship, education, identification and protection of critical habitat, research, management and protection that will help achieve the recovery goals. The document also provides detailed background information on the distribution and status of each listed herd, the threats they encounter, as well as the importance of the caribou to the people of Labrador.

The strategy also provides a summary of actions that are already taking place in support of the recovery of the three herds, including stewardship, research, mitigation and protection.

The recovery strategy concludes that the population recovery of the three herds is feasible, but hampered by a high adult mortality rate, which must be addressed if recovery is to succeed. It also concludes that sufficient habitat remains throughout the historical range of the herds and the herds have demonstrated that recruitment is adequate to allow the populations to grow.

A detailed action plan will be developed by the recovery team within the next two years to deal specifically with the recovery steps outlined in the strategy. The recovery strategy can be obtained on the Department of Environment and Conservation Web site at www.gov.nl.ca/env/wildlife/wildlife_at_risk.htm

For more information on the strategy, contact Joe Brazil, Endangered Species and Biodiversity Section, (709) 637-2356 or Rob Otto, Director of Science, (709) 637-2970

Media contact: Sonia B. Glover, Communications (709) 729-2575

BACKGROUNDER
Highlights of the Recovery Strategy

Lac Joseph Caribou Herd

* Twelve animals have been fitted with satellite transmitters and are being monitored.
* Part of the herd’s range is shared with the Province of Quebec.
* A proposed ecological reserve in the Lac Joseph-Atikonak Lake area would protect a significant portion of the Lac Joseph caribou range.
* The most recent population estimate from 2000 is 1,101. This is below historical levels, but an increase from the mid-1980s.
* Reasons for decline include overharvest, predation and loss of habitat.

Red Wine Mountains Caribou Herd

* There are 17 radio collared animals being monitored in this herd.
* The Innu Nation and the Department of Natural Resources have worked together to set aside an area of Forest Management District 19 from forest harvesting to protect part of this herd’s habitat.
* Estimated to be less that 100 animals remaining, based on a 2003 survey.
* Predation is a significant mortality factor along with illegal hunting.

Mealy Mountains Caribou Herd

* Fourteen animals from this herd are being monitored by conventional radio collars.
* The proposed Mealy Mountain National Park would encompass part of this herd’s range.
* Population estimated to be 2,585 animals, based on a 2002 survey.
* Hunting has dramatically influenced population size and trends.