Québec court to rule on caribou hunting moratorium

Québec courts are expected to deliver a decision soon on the current moratorium on hunting of the woodland caribou in northern Québec, according to Steeve Côté (spelling correct) of Université Laval in Québec City. The moratorium has been challenged by native peoples, Cree and Innu, for whom caribou hunting is an essential aspect of culture and history, as well as the main source of food for many communities. The moratorium was imposed in 2005 when the species was declared vulnerable, according to the Québec government’s Web site. Côté is studying the effect of climate change on the two herds — the Rivière-Georges herd and the Rivière aux feuilles herd — in the Ungava peninsula of northern Quebec and Labrador. As temperatures rise, there are positive and negative effects on the herds. Loss of ice cover is increasing the populations of biting insects, which harass the caribou. Loss of snow cover makes caribou more vulnerable to wolves, because the caribou can’t see the wolves as easily. Lichens — the caribou’s winter food — are decreasing; but vegetation overall is increasing, and many caribou are eating well during the summer. The Rivière-Georges herd’s numbers are dropping fast, and its territory diminishing, whereas the Rivière aux feuilles herd is increasing in size and territory. — from the Canadian Society for Ecology and Evolution Meeting May 9-12.

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