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Beasts in health, but a precarious herd

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The Ministry of the Environment plans to soon add six new animals to the Val-d'Or caribou herd. (Archive photo)

  • Gabriel Poirier (View profile)Gabriel Poirier

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The caribou of Val-d'Or are doing well, but Quebec recognizes that the low growth rate of the herd places it in a precarious state. A worrying reality for the Anishnabe community of Lac-Simon, which has been waiting for five years for the government to deign to intervene.

The herd does not have enough good genetics to survive on its own, says Andréanne Lord, environmental specialist at the Lac-Simon natural resources department.

His call echoes that of other specialists who maintain that it is necessary not only to increase the herd confined in enclosures south of Val-d'Or, but also to restore its natural habitat.

The herd needs this boost to regain a rate of individuals that would allow it to recover [and return to the wild], but this project must not be do without an ambitious plan to protect and restore their habitat. That's the crux of the problem, Lord says.

Supported by Ottawa funds, Lac-Simon believes that it remains complicated to intervene in this matter. Quebec's inaction is being singled out.

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We have closed nearly 73 kilometers of forest roads in the last three years, points out Andréanne Lord. We hope to close others on a larger scale in the caribou range, particularly in key habitats of the Val-d’Or herd. It may seem like a lot, but it's really a grain of sand if you look at the number of paths established each year for logging.

Failing that of a forest caribou protection strategy, promised by the CAQ government in 2019, the Ministry of the Environment will soon capture six caribou in Témiscamie to establish them in the Val-d'Or herd. The organization agrees that the operation is being carried out in response to the genetic weakness of the Valdorian herd.

The objective of this pilot project aims to increase the growth potential as well as address possible issues of genetic diversity and productivity of the forest caribou population of Val-d'Or, specifies the Ministry of Agriculture by email. Environment, Wildlife and Parks.

Ms. Lord says it took almost four years to close the first kilometer of forest road, in the face of Quebec's obstinacy.

The Anishnabe community of Lac-Simon maintains pressure on the ministry to force it to move. It is disappointing to learn that the strategy to protect woodland caribou habitat is constantly being postponed, says Andréanne Lord.

We were presented very briefly with [Quebec's] strategy last spring, at the time when it was promised for spring 2023. It's sad to say, but we were not impressed. According to the first draft, we do not believe that this will be enough to restore the declining caribou herds in Quebec.

A quote from Andréanne Lord, environmental specialist at the Lac-Simon natural resources department

Ms. Lord still reiterates her call to Quebec to reverse the situation. We cannot [save the caribou] alone. The Lac-Simon First Nation needs the support of the provincial and federal governments. Responsibility is shared between the two levels to protect the caribou and ensure that its habitat is maintained, she adds.

The Ministry of Environnement revealed by email some of the details of its relocation plan to swell the ranks of the Val-d'Or caribou herd, which is currently made up of nine animals.

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