Published on March 25, 2021

Source: Boualem Hadjouti, Radio-Canada

A year ago, the Val-d’Or woodland caribou herd was placed in an enclosure. The Ministry of Forests, Wildlife and Parks presented this operation as an exceptional measure to try to save the herd, which now consists of six animals, after the death of one of them of an unknown cause last July. The department had even promised to unveil a meta-study in March 2021 and to table a strategy for the caribou that are still pending.

A strategy that the biologist for the Council of the Anishnabe Nation of Lac-Simon, Geneviève Tremblay, is still waiting for.

For several years, the community has been asking for a certain number of things, including that residual habitats be better protected, that the protection territory be enlarged, that there be active restoration of the habitat and a program to reintroduce new individuals, because with six individuals, it is impossible to rebuild a population. It is certain that we have expectations with regard to this, but we do not have an answer, explains the biologist.

According to Geneviève Tremblay, it is urgent to act on the part of the government. We hope that the ministry will tell us as soon as possible if this is an emergency situation. If the caribou were put in pens, it is because everyone recognizes the urgency of the situation. But enclosure is not a conservation measure in itself, it must be accompanied by other measures, such as habitat protection and restoration, reintroduction of individuals, and science and scientific knowledge are sufficiently advanced to be able to take these measures now. It is sure that it is difficult to understand why we are still waiting and we let the situation last in time, concludes the biologist.

Action boréale, for its part, says it expects nothing from the government to save the caribou. As proof, says its president Henri Jacob, the unfulfilled promises of the Ministry of Forests.

Nothing has been done since they were put in enclosures, except to have a keeper to feed them. When they put them in the pen, they promised that in the spring, they would make a much larger pen to keep them in, but that hasn’t happened. The other thing they had promised is a consultation on the closure of roads in the territories, but that too in the last minute they decided not to do it, says Henri Jabob.

The Société pour la nature et les parcs du Québec believes that the situation of the Val-d’Or caribou is desperate.

We can really without covering the words say that the situation is really desperate for the caribou of Val-d’Or. We are talking about a management of the situation that is also desperate. Extreme protection measures are being put in place, but we don’t know what’s going on with habitat protection,” says Pier-Olivier Boudreault, biologist and director of conservation at CPAWS Quebec.

According to Boudreault, this herd should have been given special treatment instead of waiting for the implementation of a global strategy for the caribou population in Quebec.

“It would have been really necessary that these populations be taken away from the great provincial strategy.”

– Pier-Olivier Boudreault, CPAWS Quebec biologist

I don’t dare say that it’s too late, because I know that there is a regional will to maintain the Val-d’Or caribou and I am very sensitive to that, especially for the Anichinabés. It’s just that we really need to act on all fronts, including habitat protection, otherwise we’ll end up putting caribou in pens all the time,” says the biologist.

We were unable to get a reaction from the Ministry of Forests at the time of publishing this article.