Quebec hunters prevented from harvesting Labrador caribou

Derek Montague
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Hunters were going after threatened Mealy Mountains herd: source

A group of Innu hunters from the Quebec North Shore were recently prevented from illegally hunting the threatened Mealy Mountains caribou herd in Labrador, according to a source.

A Labrador woodland caribou is shown. Some herds are considered threatened, such as the Mealy Mountains herd. — Photo courtesy of the provincial wildlife division

The 10 or so hunters were headed to the Birchy Lakes area, about 150 kilometres away from Happy Valley-Goose Bay, when wildlife officers stopped them.

The incident happened earlier this month.

Considered threatened

According to a 2009 publication from the Department of Environment and Conservation, the Mealy Mountains herd was estimated at just 2,500 animals and considered threatened under the provincial Endangered Species Act and the federal Species at Risk Act.

Quebec hunters crossing the Labrador border to hunt caribou illegally is a problem that stretches back several years.

Back in 2007, two Quebec men from Pakua Shipi Innu were fined $18,000 each for killing caribou from the Mealy Mountains herd.

Serious problem

Former Labrador wildlife officer Hollis Yetman recalls how serious the problem was in the early 2000s, when caribou poaching near the Quebec-Labrador border was common.

“(The hunting) was significant. In 2003, there was endangered species legislation enacted and that was the catalyst for wildlife officers to have some strength and some backbone … that they could officially charge aboriginals for hunting these threatened caribou herds,” said Yetman.

Protected by wildlife officers

“If it wasn’t for a small, core group of wildlife officers that have had continuity protecting these herds for the past 10-15 years, I would say that the population would be far less than what they are now.”

Yetman is worried a few undetected hunts will be all that’s needed to decimate the Mealy Mountains herd and other woodland caribou.

“Basically, the Department of Justice keeps its eyes over these woodland caribou herds. Right now they’re doing a good job with their limited surveillance. (But) it only takes one or two undetected hunts by anyone and you will cause serious population problems with these herds,” said Yetman.

“The numbers are that sensitive.”

Yetman also feels that conservation efforts are also held up too much by the notion of aboriginal hunting rights.

“I think that the aboriginal right overshadows the need to protect these caribou a lot of the time,” said Yetman.

“The only thing keeping some of these caribou alive is the dedication of two or three of the wildlife officers who keep an eye on them.”

TC Media requested an interview with Justice Minister Darin King, but there was no response by press time, as government offices were closed Monday.

TC media was also been unsuccessful at reaching Pakua Shipi Chief Dennis Mestenapeo.

Organizations: Department of Environment and Conservation, Department of Justice

Geographic location: Mealy Mountains, Labrador, Quebec Birchy Lakes Happy Valley Goose Bay Quebec-Labrador

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  • tax payer
    April 22, 2014 - 08:08

    why should the Innu from Quebec respect a white mans border in regard to hunting? those people were here long before any white man/woman. If they kill the last caribou, so be it , assign the wildlife officers somewhere else or lay them off and put the money to a better use.

  • DM
    April 22, 2014 - 08:02

    The focus is not a Quebec/NL issue. Stay in your own province. This is Canada, one country. The significant issue at hand is wildlife preservation and conservation. If a Labrador white man was hunting is would be just as serious. United we stand a greater chance at succeeding - in everything we do.

  • BI
    April 22, 2014 - 07:23

    Great - Quebec hunters should stay in their own province. The herd should be protected until they regain their numbers.

  • KD
    April 22, 2014 - 06:11

    The socalled keepers of the land are once again doing their best to destroy every caribou that walks in the forest I an totally amazed at the double standards practised by these people