Live Reindeer at Santa’s grottos could be banned next year as stress leaves animals with misshapen antlers and high mortality rates

Live Reindeer at Santa's grottos could be banned next year as stress leaves animals with misshapen antlers and high mortality ratesImage: Victor Maschek / Shutterstock.com

Animal rights groups are aiming to ban the use of live reindeer at Christmas grottos due to concerns for the wellbeing of the animals. 

A campaign led by the RSPCA explains that reindeer feel anxious and stressed at Christmas grottos where they are kept in small pens.

The stress experienced by reindeer then leads to health problems such as misshapen antlers, low fertility and high calf mortality, the animal welfare group explained.

The RSPCA is calling for the Government to introduce a ban next year, meaning this year could be the last that reindeer feature at Christmas grottos.

The group estimates that 1,500 reindeer are used at attractions in the UK – often at shopping centres and Christmas markets.

Dr Ros Clubb, senior scientific manager at the RSPCA, said in a statement: “We understand that it must seem magical for people to see a reindeer at Christmas, but the reality is reindeer are not easy to keep well and need specialised care, they get stressed very easily and are very susceptible to many health and welfare problems.

“In the wild they are prey animals so they naturally hide their illnesses, and we’re concerned many owners may not realise their reindeer, which are attending stressful, busy festive events, are poorly or may not be able to spot the problems until it is too late.”

Fellow animal welfare group PETA has backed the campaign.

Director Elisa Allen added: “What could ruin the magic of the season more than seeing stressed animals confined to cramped pens, tied up, or harnessed and forced to pull people around on sleighs?

“Reindeer are intelligent, gentle animals who are meant to roam free over vast ranges – not be carted up and down the country as if they were mere props to be paraded about and gawked at under in busy shopping centres.”

Conservationists criticize Quebec plan to protect caribou by killing wolves

Morgan Lowrie , The Canadian Press
Published Wednesday, December 11, 2019 12:01PM EST
  • caribou A caribou grazes on Baffin Island in a 2008 file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Kike Calvo via AP Images

  • WolvesA female wolf, left, and male wolf roam the tundra near The Meadowbank Gold Mine located in the Nunavut Territory of Canada on Wednesday, March 25, 2009. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

  • caribou A caribou grazes on Baffin Island in a 2008 file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Kike Calvo via AP Images

  • WolvesA female wolf, left, and male wolf roam the tundra near The Meadowbank Gold Mine located in the Nunavut Territory of Canada on Wednesday, March 25, 2009. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

MONTREAL – A Quebec government plan to kill wolves that get too close to an endangered woodland caribou herd is raising concern among environmentalists, who accuse the government of sidestepping the true problem of habitat loss.

The plan by the Department of Forest, Wildlife and Parks involves placing tracking collars on both the caribou and members of local wolf packs to monitor distances between them.

If a wolf were to threaten the herd, trained shooters in helicopters could be sent in to kill the wolf in a “targeted intervention,” according to Francis Forcier, who is the general manager for strategic mandates at the department.

Forcier said the measures could be necessary in order to reverse the decline of the Charlevoix herd north of Quebec City, whoe numbers have fallen to an estimated 31 animals from 59 two years ago. He stressed that the plan remains hypothetical and is intended as a stopgap while the province addresses the greater problem of habitat restoration.

“What we’ve started to do, given this drastic fall of nearly 50 per cent in two years, is to look at measures that are stronger but temporary, because the principal element we have to do is restore the habitat,” he said in a phone interview.

Forcier said no wolves have yet been shot, and they will be left alone as long as they don’t threaten the herd. Overall, he believes no more than a dozen wolves will need to be killed.

The plan has drawn criticism from both environmentalists and members of the public. A petition denouncing the plan to shoot the wolves currently had amassed more than 9,000 signatures by Wednesday.

Rachel Plotkin, a caribou expert who works with the David Suzuki Foundation, says predator control is a popular management practice employed by provinces “that don’t have the political will to do the habitat restoration and protection that is needed to recover caribou populations.”

She said that while wolves are indeed killing caribou, that’s because of human activity that has destroyed the old-growth forests that protect them.

“Predator control is just a band-aid measure that further degrades ecosystems,” she said. “Predators and their prey have co-evolved for thousands of years, and they’re not the reason the caribou is declining.”

Plotkin notes that the federal government’s caribou management plan found that caribou herds need a minimum of 65 per cent of their range left undisturbed if they’re to have any reasonable chance of survival. The Charlevoix herd’s habitat has only 20 per cent.

Both environmentalists and the government agree that habitat preservation is crucial to the survival of the caribou, which are especially sensitive to human interference and depend on thick, old-growth forests to shield them from predators and provide the lichen they eat.

Those same old-growth forests are prized by the forestry industry, and Forcier acknowledged that finding a balance between economic growth and conservation is a challenge. But he said the government is limiting development on important lands and will take even stronger action in a caribou restoration plan to be unveiled in 2022.

Henri Jacob, the head of environmental advocacy group Action Boreale, feels the provincial government’s actions show it has no intention of helping caribou. He points out that the promised action plan will only be implemented at the end of the current government’s mandate.

“In other words, for their whole mandate they’ll do nothing to protect the caribou,” he said.

He also criticized the province’s decision, announced this week, to remove protection for some 460 square kilometres of woods in the Saguenay-Lac-St-Jean region, which had been previously designated protected caribou habitat.

Forcier said the decision was made mostly because no caribou had been seen in the area in several years, but Jacob doesn’t buy that. He says that it’s normal for caribou to leave an area for a few years after grazing there, to allow the lichen and moss to grow back.

Jacob is also critical of the government’s plan to kill wolves, noting they can actually help keep herds healthier by eliminating sicker, weaker animals.

He said that while predator management can sometimes be part of a temporary preservation strategy, it serves no purpose if it is not paired with serious effort to preserve habitat.

“When you want to make a cake, if you only put in flour, you won’t have a cake,” he said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec 11, 2019

More than 100 reindeer killed by freight trains in Norway ‘bloodbath’

 This article is more than 1 year old

Sixty-five animals died on railway track on Saturday while further 41 killed last week during winter migration

A train passes by dead reindeer near Mosjoen, northern Norway
 A train passes by the bodies of dead reindeer near Mosjøen, northern Norway. Photograph: John Erling Utsi/AP

More than 100 reindeer have been killed by freight trains in northern Norway in the past days in what has been called a senseless tragedy.

One train killed 65 deer on a track on Saturday while 41 died between Wednesday and Friday, the public broadcaster NRK reported late on Sunday.

“I’m so angry that I’m dizzy,” the owner of the 65 dead reindeer, Ole Henrik Kappfjell, told NRK. “It’s a senseless animal tragedy … a psychological nightmare.”

Norway is home to about 250,000 semi-domestic reindeer and most of them live in the far north of the country. At this time of year, herders take the reindeer to the winter pastures in search of grazing grounds, a perilous journey as many animals are hit by cars and trains. Some also drown.

Photos taken by the documentary filmmaker Jon Erling Utsi showed dead reindeer lying in the blood-stained snow. Some were shot after they were left wounded in Saturday’s incident. “It was a nightmare to watch,” he told NRK.

“The worst thing was the animals that were not killed in the accident. They were lying there, suffering. It was a bloodbath over several kilometres,” he added.

More than 2,000 reindeer were hit along the same northern railway line between 2013 and 2016.

The herders are demanding that the railway operator install a fence along the track but as yet there has been no funding.

Six caribou in North Idaho and Washington – the last in the continental U.S. – will be relocated to Canada

Sat., Nov. 3, 2018

 (Shutterstock)
(Shutterstock)

Caribou, the Grey Ghosts of Idaho and Washington’s forests, will no longer roam the Lower 48.

After decades of work reintroducing the large ungulates into Idaho and Washington, Canadian wildlife officials decided to relocate the six remaining survivors in the United States farther north into Canada.

There, Canadian biologists hope to breed the animals in captivity at a pen north of Revelstoke, British Columbia, deep in the Canadian brush, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reported Friday.

Bart George, a wildlife biologist for the Kalispel Tribe, hopes the breeding project is successful and that the caribou population grows to a point where it could “spill over into the U.S.”

In 2009, George said the South Selkirk caribou herd had 46 animals and was “climbing at a pretty good rate every year.”

But wolves started to filter onto the landscape about that time, George said.

“That’s been our primary source of mortality that we’ve known about,” George said.

Logging roads and increased snowmobiling access also played a role . But in terms of direct mortality, cougars and wolves were the primary culprits.

“Predation is obviously the No. 1 factor,” George said. “That was kind of the straw that broke the camel’s back at this point. All those other issues are concerns, but we don’t really understand how snowmobiling would affect the animals in the long term, other than we know it disrupts animals in the winter.”

He added, “Of the six collared animals that we collared in 2013, two were killed by wolves, one killed by cougars and one by an unknown mortality.”

In April, an aerial survey of the South Selkirk Mountain caribou herd found only three surviving members, all female. Over the summer one of those animals was killed by a cougar, George said.

Biologists and managers have known the animals were in trouble since 2012, George said. However, little was done.

“We really didn’t mobilize until it was too late,” he said.

Other herds in the range have “blinked out” in recent years. Full-scale recovery efforts began only recently, with Canada starting to control its wolf population in 2014 and maternal pen projects and population augmentation efforts starting only a year ago.

Canadian wildlife agencies have removed about 20 wolves since 2014.

Deep snow delayed the Kalispel Tribe’s maternal pen project and the enclosure was never used.

“We could potentially use that site in the future as a release site,” George said.

Although mountain caribou were listed as an endangered species in the U.S. in 1983, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the states of Washington and Idaho are not actively involved in the maternal pen project or controlling the caribou predators even though the caribou range extended south into Idaho and Washington.

“This is what extinction looks like, and it must be a wake-up call for wildlife and habitat managers in both Canada and the United States,” said Joe Scott, Conservation Northwest’s international programs director, in a news release. “While it comes as no surprise given the long decline of the only caribou herds that still roamed into northeast Washington and northern Idaho, today’s news marks the tragic end of an era.”

The South Selkirk caribou herd was the only one living in both the United States and Canada. It ranged through the high country along the crest of the Selkirk Mountains near the international border. The remaining 14 or so herds are all in Canada. It’s estimated that fewer than 1,400 mountain caribou are left in North America.

Known as Grey Ghosts because of how rarely they are seen, the South Selkirk caribou differ from caribou that wander the tundra farther north. These caribou use their wide feet to stand on top of deep snow and eat lichen that grows high in old-growth forests.

The mountain caribou have struggled as old growth forests have been thinned by logging and other industrial activities, George said. With thinner forests, the caribou have become more susceptible to predation.

Thinned forests have led to other problems, including vehicle strikes on Highway 3 in British Columbia.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wrote its first recovery plan for mountain caribou in the early 1980s and it was reworked in 1994. Working with Canadian agencies and First Nations, caribou from other regions were trapped and released in the area with some positive results.

But those positive results didn’t last, and, despite the Kalispel Tribe’s efforts, starting in 2012 the population has only declined.

“We talked about it, and we did a bunch of hand-wringing for the next six years until we ended up this position,” George said.

Trump administration moves to lift restrictions on hunting, trapping in national preserves in Alaska

Under proposed changes hunters could bait brown bears, hunt black bears with dogs and kill wolves

The Associated Press · Posted: May 22, 2018 3:33 PM CT | Last Updated: May 22

<https://i.cbc.ca/1.2735917.1407976946!/cpImage/httpImage/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/16x9_780/travel-trip-alaska-katmai-bears.jpg&gt;

A brown bear catches a salmon in Katmai National Park and Preserve, Alaska in July 2013. Under proposed changes to sport hunting and trapping regulations for national preserves, hunters could bait brown bears with bacon and doughtnuts. (The Associated Press)

The Trump administration is moving to reverse Obama-era rules barring hunters on some public lands in Alaska from baiting brown bears with bacon and doughnuts and using spotlights to shoot mother black bears and cubs hibernating in their dens.

The National Park Service issued a notice Monday of its intent to amend regulations for sport hunting and trapping in national preserves to bring the federal rules in line with Alaska state law.

Under the proposed changes, hunters would also be allowed to hunt black bears with dogs, kill wolves and pups in their dens, and use motor boats to shoot swimming caribou.

Cruel and harmful hunting methods like killing bear cubs and their mothers near dens have no place on our national preserves.- Collette Adkins, lawyer and biologist

These and other hunting methods — condemned as cruel by wildlife protection advocates — were outlawed on federal lands in 2015. Members of the public have 60 days to provide comment on the proposed new rules.

“The conservation of wildlife and habitat for future generations is a goal we share with Alaska,” said Bert Frost, the park service’s regional director. “This proposed rule will reconsider NPS efforts in Alaska for improved alignment of hunting regulations on national preserves with State of Alaska regulations, and to enhance consistency with harvest regulations on surrounding non-federal lands and waters.”

Alaska has 10 national preserves covering nearly 95,830 square kilometers.

<https://i.cbc.ca/1.4673578.1527022003!/cpImage/httpImage/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/original_780/alaska-black-bears.jpg&gt;

A black bear and cub seen in Anchorage, Alaska. The Trump administration plans to reverse a ban on using spotlights to shoot mother black bears and cubs hibernating in their dens on some public lands in the state. (The Associated Press)

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game was “pleased to see the National Park Service working to better align federal regulations with State of Alaska hunting and trapping regulations,” Maria Gladziszewski, the state agency’s deputy director of the Division of Wildlife Conservation, said in an email to the Associated Press.

She said the proposal is “progress in that direction, and we appreciate those efforts. Alaskans benefit when state and federal regulations are consistent.”

Gladziszewski said the state doesn’t conduct predator control in national preserves.

“Predator control could be allowed in preserves only with federal authorization because such actions are subject to NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) review,” she said.

Expanding hunting rights on federal lands has been a priority for Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, a former Montana congressman who displays a taxidermied bear in his Washington office along with mounted heads from a bison and an elk.

<https://i.cbc.ca/1.4673491.1527019877!/cpImage/httpImage/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/original_780/u-s-senate-ryan-zinke.jpg&gt;

Expanding hunting rights on federal lands has been a priority for Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. (Jacquelyn Martin/The Associated Press)

The Obama-era restrictions on hunting on federal lands in Alaska were challenged by Safari Club International, a group that promotes big-game hunting. The Associated Press reported in March that Zinke had appointed a board loaded with trophy hunters to advise him on conserving threatened and endangered wildlife, including members of the Safari Club.

President Donald Trump’s sons are also avid trophy hunters who have made past excursions to Africa and Alaska.

Collette Adkins, a lawyer and biologist with the advocacy group Center for Biological Diversity, expressed outrage at the rollback.

“Cruel and harmful hunting methods like killing bear cubs and their mothers near dens have no place on our national preserves,” she said.

The Humane Society of the United States said it would oppose the new rules.

“These federal lands are havens for wildlife and the National Park Service is mandated to manage these ecosystems in a manner that promotes conservation,” said Anna Frostic, a lawyer for the animal rights group. “This proposed rule, which would allow inhumane killing of our native carnivores in a misguided attempt to increase trophy hunting opportunities, is unlawful and must not be finalized.”

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/north/trump-restrictions-hunting-trapping-alaska-preserves-1.4673467

In Canada, mountain caribou recovery falters

http://www.hcn.org/issues/48.18/in-canada-mountain-caribou-recovery-falters?utm_source=wcn1&utm_medium=email

A decade of conservation efforts has done little to stop the decline of the endangered ungulates or their rainforest home.

Alberta announces tree planting will be part of caribou protection plan

By: Staff The Canadian Press Published on Sat Oct 01 2016

EDMONTON – The Alberta government says it’s moving ahead with the oil and
gas industry to restore habitat for dwindling caribou herds.

The province announced Saturday that work is beginning that will eventually
see trees planted along thousands of kilometres of land that were cleared
for seismic lines in the Little Smoky and A La Peche caribou rangelands.

The work starts with compiling a restoration guide, as well as setting up a
pilot project along 70 kilometres of seismic lines in the spring.

A $200,000 contract will be issued to source and grow the trees for the
pilot project, and $800,000 will be earmarked for an operational plan to
restore 3,900 kilometres of lines.

The federal government has given provinces until 2017 to come up with range
plans and recovery strategies for caribou herds, which are in danger across
the country.

The Alberta government released a draft plan for caribou protection in its
northern and central regions in June, where one particularly threatened herd
has declined to only a few dozen.

“We are pleased with the leadership role taken by the oil and gas industry
in working to ensure we have a made-in-Alberta plan that provides an
economic certainty for industry and workers who make their living in the
north and do what’s right to protect this iconic animal,” Alberta’s
environment minister, Shannon Phillips, said in a media release.

Agriculture and Forestry Minister Oneil Carlier noted the tree-planting
efforts will provide jobs and strengthen local economies.

The clean energy think tank the Pembina Institute says on its website that
oil companies that create the seismic lines to get information about
underground rock formations must remove trees and other obstacles in order
to make room for their vehicles and equipment.

The seismic lines and roads into forests and wetlands provide wolves with
easy access to caribou, which results in more predators than the herds can
tolerate.

In Alberta, decades of development have left herds clinging to a few scraps
of old-growth forest. Numbers have declined by about 60 per cent and some
ranges are more than 80 per cent disturbed.

Portions of the Alberta draft plan released in June called for energy
development to be “rescheduled” and logging old-growth forest on caribou
range to be blocked. It said wolves would continue to be shot to try to
manage the population, although bears also eat caribou calves.

The draft also suggested fencing off a 100-square-kilometre habitat for
female caribou during the calving season to protect them from predators.

The fence proposal drew fire from some environmental groups who argued the
major issue that needed to be addressed was the loss of natural habitat to
industrial expansion.

There were also suggestions that caribou coming out of a predator-free
enclosure would not know how to handle themselves in the wild.

Russia plans to kill a quarter million Siberian reindeer amid anthrax fears

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/animalia/wp/2016/10/01/russia-plans-to-kill-a-quarter-million-siberian-reindeer-amid-anthrax-fears/

October 1 at 1:15 PM

You know Dasher and Dancer, Prancer and Vixen, Comet and Cupid…?

They may all be dead soon.

Faced with a public health crisis straight from a dystopian horror movie, officials in a remote region of Siberia have proposed killing off 250,000 reindeer by Christmas to minimize the possible spread of deadly anthrax bacteria, according to the Siberian Times.

The alarm started in July, when an outbreak of the bacteria killed a 12-year-old nomadic boy and sickened nearly 100 nomadic people in the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug, a vast northwestern region of the Siberian tundra. More than 2,300 reindeer also died.

The region’s governor, Dmitry Kobylkin, declared a state of emergency but also tried to reassure the Nenets, the nomadic indigenous people of the region, who roam with the herds of reindeer and depend on them for their existence.

“There is no epidemic in Yamal,” Kobylkin told the Associated Press then. “Only a small area was quarantined.”

The Yamal Peninsula, where the outbreak occurred, was immediately closed off and the carcasses of the dead animals burned. Kobylkin said all the reindeer on the peninsula — some 300,000 — were vaccinated, the AP reported.

Hundreds of nomadic reindeer herders were evacuated to Salekhard, the region’s capital, and the government set aside about $1.3 million to help them build a new settlement, according to the AP.

Still, the outbreak has prompted officials to propose killing 250,000 reindeer by Christmas, a far greater number that would be reduced anyway in an annual “cull” of the animals that takes place each November and December, the Siberian Times reported.

[A lightning strike killed 323 reindeer, and this is the ghastly aftermath]

A Russian federal veterinary official has said the reindeer population in Yamal was already “too high,” and thus, unsustainable.

“The more dense the animal population is, the worse the disease transfer medium (and) the more often animals get sick,” said Nikolai Vlasov, deputy head of Russia’s Federal Veterinary and Phytosanitary Surveillance Service, according to the Siberian Times. “Density of livestock, especially in the tundra areas that are very fragile, should be regulated…. Otherwise, they will kill the pastures and later will destroy the indigenous minorities of the north who will have nothing to live on. It is impossible to breed reindeer without limits.”
An estimated 730,000 reindeer live in the Yamalo-Nenets region, the largest herd in the world, according to the paper.

Further complicating the matter, officials believe the mysterious outbreak may have started because a heat wave this summer thawed a decades-old corpse of a reindeer that was infected with anthrax, re-releasing the bacteria into the air.

This summer, temperatures in Yamal reached record highs of 90-degrees Fahrenheit and above, an unusual occurrence for what is typically a bitterly cold tundra. (Yamal means “end of the land” in the Nenets language.)

[Scientists are floored by what’s happening in the Arctic right now]

As the warmer temperatures caused a layer of permafrost to melt, the infected reindeer carcass was exposed to the surface — and, with it, spores of reanimated anthrax bacteria that grazing reindeer quickly picked up.

As The Post’s Ben Guarino reported in July:

Zombie bacteria that awaken from old corpses might sound like the stuff of an “X-Files” episode. The premise is far from a complete fiction, however.

For one, anthrax bacteria are hardy microbe. As University of Missouri bacteriologist George Stewart told the Missourian in 2014, the organisms turn into spores in the cold. They play the long game, waiting in the soil for the temperatures to rise. Once it hits a certain threshold, they morph back into a more mobile, infectious state.

“The soil in the Yamal Peninisula is like a giant freezer,” Jean-Michel Claverie, a biologist with the National Center for Scientific Research in France, told NPR in August. “Those are very, very good conditions for bacteria to remain alive for a very long time.”

In addition to culling a quarter-million reindeer this year, officials have also proposed that the animals be moved south and fenced in to allow northern pastures to recover from overgrazing, the Guardian reported.

Both proposals have drawn criticism from those who say they would be detrimental to the way of life for some of the nomadic herders.

“A huge number of nomads on the Yamal and Gydan peninsulas will lose their means of existence and opportunities to maintain their traditional way of life,” Olga Murashko, an anthropologist, told the paper.

Bruce C. Forbes, a professor at the Arctic Centre in the University of Lapland, said that dramatically culling the reindeer in Yamal or to move to a fenced-in reindeer population “would be to simply replace one set of problems with another,” citing overgrazing issues even in the Finnish system of managing the reindeer population.

More: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/animalia/wp/2016/10/01/russia-plans-to-kill-a-quarter-million-siberian-reindeer-amid-anthrax-fears/

Sarah Palin does the Climate Hustle…

In case she hasn’t noticed, Alaska is seeing its share of climate changes

http://www.climatehustlemovie.com/

Scorching temperatures. Melting ice caps. Killer hurricanes and tornadoes. Disappearing polar bears. The end of civilization as we know it! Are emissions from our cars, factories, and farms causing catastrophic climate change? Is there a genuine scientific consensus? Or is man-made “global warming” an overheated environmental con job being used to push for increased government regulations and a new “Green” energy agenda?

CLIMATE HUSTLE will answer these questions, and many, many more. Produced in the one-of-a-kind entertaining and informative style that has made CFACT and Marc Morano’s award-winning ClimateDepot.com one of the world’s most sought after sources for reliable, hard-to-find facts about climate issues, this groundbreaking film will tear the cover off of global warming hype, and expose the myths and exaggerations of this multi-billion dollar issue.

CLIMATE HUSTLE will reveal the history of climate scares including global cooling; debunk outrageous claims about temperatures, extreme weather, and the so-called “consensus;” expose the increasingly shrill calls to “act immediately before it’s too late,” and in perhaps the film’s most important section, profile key scientists who used to believe in climate alarm but have since converted to skepticism.

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Quebec hunters prevented from harvesting Labrador caribou

http://www.thetelegram.com/News/Local/2014-04-22/article-3696336/Quebec-hunters-prevented-from-harvesting-Labrador-caribou/1

by Derek Montague
Published on April 22, 2014

Hunters were going after threatened Mealy Mountains herd: source

A group of Innu hunters from the Quebec North Shore were recently prevented from illegally hunting the threatened Mealy Mountains caribou herd in Labrador, according to a source.

A Labrador woodland caribou is shown. Some herds are considered threatened, such as the Mealy Mountains herd. — Photo courtesy of the provincial wildlife division

The 10 or so hunters were headed to the Birchy Lakes area, about 150 kilometres away from Happy Valley-Goose Bay, when wildlife officers stopped them.

The incident happened earlier this month.

Considered threatened

According to a 2009 publication from the Department of Environment and Conservation, the Mealy Mountains herd was estimated at just 2,500 animals and considered threatened under the provincial Endangered Species Act and the federal Species at Risk Act.

Quebec hunters crossing the Labrador border to hunt caribou illegally is a problem that stretches back several years.

Back in 2007, two Quebec men from Pakua Shipi Innu were fined $18,000 each for killing caribou from the Mealy Mountains herd.

Serious problem

Former Labrador wildlife officer Hollis Yetman recalls how serious the problem was in the early 2000s, when caribou poaching near the Quebec-Labrador border was common.

“(The hunting) was significant. In 2003, there was endangered species legislation enacted and that was the catalyst for wildlife officers to have some strength and some backbone … that they could officially charge aboriginals for hunting these threatened caribou herds,” said Yetman.

Protected by wildlife officers

“If it wasn’t for a small, core group of wildlife officers that have had continuity protecting these herds for the past 10-15 years, I would say that the population would be far less than what they are now.”

Yetman is worried a few undetected hunts will be all that’s needed to decimate the Mealy Mountains herd and other woodland caribou.

“Basically, the Department of Justice keeps its eyes over these woodland caribou herds. Right now they’re doing a good job with their limited surveillance. (But) it only takes one or two undetected hunts by anyone and you will cause serious population problems with these herds,” said Yetman.

“The numbers are that sensitive.”

Yetman also feels that conservation efforts are also held up too much by the notion of aboriginal hunting rights.

“I think that the aboriginal right overshadows the need to protect these caribou a lot of the time,” said Yetman.

“The only thing keeping some of these caribou alive is the dedication of two or three of the wildlife officers who keep an eye on them.”

TC Media requested an interview with Justice Minister Darin King, but there was no response by press time, as government offices were closed Monday.

TC media was also been unsuccessful at reaching Pakua Shipi Chief Dennis Mestenapeo.