In February 2008, $15.3 million in funding was announced for a five-year scientific and management strategy of the island woodland caribou populations.
The strategy builds upon earlier efforts to better understand and mitigate the current decline in woodland caribou numbers and the role of predators in this
decline. Part of this effort is directed towards reducing predator numbers through legal harvests in order to determine the effect on caribou populations.
The caribou strategy focuses on the continuation of the collection of necessary caribou data; initiation of a predator-caribou ecology studies;
implementation of an enhanced information and education programs; cooperation with the Department of Natural Resources to improve wildlife management;
increased emphasis on habitat assessment; and a province-wide regional assessments of black bear populations, one of the key predators of caribou
calves. This scientific and management strategy is consistent with government's commitment to sustainable development and science-based decision
making, and constitutes a major effort to assist in better understanding and mitigating the caribou decline.
- Caribou populations have been in a state of decline since approximately the mid to late 1990s. Predators are seen as a major reason for this decline.
- Studies on calf annual survival rates show some herds at less than 10 per cent. High calf mortality, coupled with an adult mortality rate
estimated at approximately 12 per cent, means populations will continue to decline independently of any other pressures such as hunting.
- Recent and ongoing studies clearly implicate black bear, coyote and, in some cases, lynx as the key predators of caribou calves. Calf annual
survival rates must increase to at least 15 per cent even to stabilize populations at current levels.
- The Caribou Strategy includes the following initiatives which will give a better understanding of the current decline in the woodland caribou
populations and enable government to intervene in a proactive manner:
- Continuation of the collection of necessary data, including data from existing radio-collared animals and the expansion of the adult
collaring effort to the Middle Ridge herd. There will also be census and classification programs, as well as the continuation of calf mortality
- Initiation of a predator ecology study in cooperation with several academic institutes. This study will include the collaring and
monitoring of key predators and caribou, followed by a focused predator removal program on caribou calving areas.
- Implementation of an enhanced information and education program focused primarily at ensuring hunters and trappers continue to be
effective in wildlife and predator management through legal participation in wildlife harvesting.
- Implementation of a province-wide regional assessment of black bear populations, given their significant impact on the decline of caribou calves.
- Improved wildlife enforcement.
- Increased emphasis on habitat assessment.
Report on the Island of Newfoundland's Caribou