The news went relatively unnoticed, but the last caribou in the Val-d’Or region this year added a new fawn to their herd on the brink of extinction and kept in captivity since March 2020. A birth that occurs just as the government is preparing to send caribou from Charlevoix and Gaspésie into captivity, in an attempt to save them.
According to information provided by the Ministère des Forêts, de la Faune et des Parcs (MFFP), the woodland caribou fawn, a male, was born at the end of May in the enclosure that housed the last caribou in the region. of Val-d’Or. He would still be alive and well, it was confirmed Thursday.
These deer, which the Couillard government wanted to send to the Saint-Félicien Zoo in 2017, were finally captured and placed in an enclosure in March 2020. There were then seven animals, but a caribou subsequently died, of unknown cause. . The birth of this year therefore brings the count down to seven caribou.
This isolated herd has become the symbol of the decline of woodland caribou in Quebec. But she is not the only one on the brink of extinction. According to MFFP inventories, the caribou population in the Charlevoix region numbered only 17 animals, including one fawn. In the early 1990s, this isolated population numbered 125 individuals.
The disturbance of their habitat, in particular by the forest industry, is at the origin of this marked decline, according to what emerges from the inventory report of the MFFP. Concretely, logging, in addition to destroying the old forests necessary to feed the caribou, facilitate the arrival of predators, which has the effect of increasing the mortality of young caribou.
As for the mountain caribou of the Gaspé, which constitute the last population of the species living south of the St. Lawrence, there are no more than 32 to 36 animals, according to the most recent inventory. In 2019, their declining herd was estimated at 40 animals, while inventories published using data from 2017 indicated the presence of around 75 animals.
The MFFP must also capture and enclose all the Charlevoix caribou during this winter. Enclosure planning is similar in Parc national de la Gaspésie, except that, in this case, two sites will be developed: one in the Mont Albert sector and one in the Mont McGerrigle sector.
The MFFP also plans to capture only pregnant females from the Gaspé Peninsula next winter. The females will be transported in captivity to protect the fawns from predators. They could then be released after a few weeks, or stay longer in captivity, depending on the success of this operation.
At best, there are only a few thousand woodland caribou in Quebec and the decline continues, according to MFFP inventories. Certain groups of deer are now in an “extremely precarious” situation and their long-term survival is described as “unlikely”.
The Legault government nevertheless decided, at the beginning of November, not to present this year a strategy aimed at protecting the various populations of woodland caribou in the province. Such a strategy is promised for 2023, that is to say after the next provincial elections.
Instead of a rescue plan for the species, the Minister of Forests, Wildlife and Parks, Pierre Dufour, has decided to set up an “independent commission” which will have to conduct public consultations “in certain regions ”where forest or mountain caribou are found, namely Saguenay – Lac-Saint-Jean, Côte-Nord, Abitibi-Témiscamingue, Nord-du-Québec and Gaspésie. All of these regions have a forestry industry.
This commission has no biologist, no expert in forest ecosystems and no expert on woodland caribou, even though this species is studied by several scientists in Quebec.