Thursday, December 27, 2018

Wildlife Management Fail

In the mid 1980's I became interested in arranging a trip to hunt caribou in the Ungava Peninsula region of Quebec.  The George River caribou herd was growing rapidly, trips were affordable, and the success rate for hunters was nearly 100%.  I was fortunate to have been able to make three trips, one each in 1987, 1989, and 1991.  The above photo was of our party in 1991.

The herd which was estimated to number some 50,000 animals in the 1960's had grown to 800,000 animals by the early 1990's.  Sport hunters were allowed two animals of either sex and the killing of wolves was strictly forbidden.  The major management concern voiced by the managing ministry was of the herd eating itself out of house and home.

The early 1990's was the high water mark for the George River herd.  By 2001 the herd was down to 385,000 animals and dropping farther to 75,000 by 2010 when all sport hunting was banned.  The herd population has continued to fall with the 2018 estimate being only 5,500 animals.

According to government researchers wolf populations are considered low, habitat disturbance is low, calf birthrates are normal, and the animals tested are healthy with decreasing prevalence of parasites. However the herd continues to decrease.  Consideration was given to place this herd on the  Canadian endangered species list.

Caribou populations in many areas around the arctic are decreasing and may very well be tied to global climate change. 


Woody Meristem said...

Wow, what a collapse. Although caribou populations are known for wide and rapid fluctuations, the latest decline is significant. Apparently some of the caribou herds in northwestern Canada and Alaska are also crashing. The best information available attributes the decline to the warming climate -- larger insect populations harassing and draining the animals, vegetation changes and larger fires all attributable to increased temperature.

Coy Hill said...

Thanks Woody. Yes, that is pretty much the same information that I've been coming up with. I understand that herds not only in North America but around the northern hemisphere are crashing. And to think that until about one hundred years ago Maine had a population of woodland caribou. It's sad indeed what we humans are doing with this planet.