"A survey I just got my hands on indicates that the huge George River caribou herd is in decline. The survey (it was taken by the Canadian military and does not purport to be complete) estimates the population at around 250,000 to 270,000 animals. That is a huge drop from the estimated 800,000 level a few years ago.
"The decline was not unexpected, according to Serge Couturier, the lead biologist for Quebec's caribou project. He says the animals have been severely damaging their habitat for several years now, particularly on and near the calving grounds of the George River tundra plateaus. He notes that the George River at its peak was possibly the largest herd of free-ranging ungulates on earth, maybe even larger than African ungulate populations. Any decline short of a total crash, which clearly hasn't happened, can only be seen as positive for the long-term health of the herd, he says.
"Some of the decline in the George River herd can apparently be accounted for by large numbers of animals moving to areas traditionally occupied by the still-growing Leaf River herd - in effect changing herds. At this point, it's impossible to assess how this decline, if confirmed, is going to affect hunting in the short or long term. It could prove a boon to outfitters based in Kuujjuaq, who primarily hunt the Leaf River herd. It could also cause migration patterns among the George River herd to stabilize after years of erratic behavior, which would be welcome news indeed for Schefferville and Caniapiscau-based outfitters and their clients.
"Because of these uncertainties regarding the status of migratory caribou, the Quebec government has allocated a half million dollars........(continued)