Census shows spike in George River caribou numbers

A summer baby boom in the long-struggling George River caribou herd in Labrador and Quebec has led to an increase in population numbers — its first in more than 25 years.

A population census released Thursday by wildlife officials in Newfoundland and Labrador and Quebec estimates the herd’s population to be 8,100 animals, up from 2018’s estimate of 5,500 animals.

Officials say the numbers are cause for cautious optimism, although the present population is still just one per cent of its historic high of more than 750,000 caribou.

Newfoundland and Labrador director of wildlife Blair Adams says there has been an increase in calves, most of which were born in June 2020.

He says calves have a much higher mortality rate than adults, and their survival through the winter will be a main determinant of whether herd numbers continue to increase.

Hunting the herd has been banned since 2013, and Adams says the ban should remain in place.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 15, 2020.

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