George River

  • Herd size (2018) 5,500 (a decrease of 38% since the previous survey in 2016 and 99% since 1993)

The historic range of the George River herd was almost 100,000 km2, from the eastern shore of Hudson Bay in northern Quebec, and the Atlantic coast line in Labrador. That range shrank by about 85% from the late 1990s to the 2010-14 range. It is now almost entirely in Labrador.

The decline steep decline is blamed largely on degradation of the caribou habitat by an unsupportably large population in the early 1990s, compounded by the factors found in the ‘threats’ section of this site.

COSEWIC has recommended listing of the eastern migratory caribou as endangered. The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador decided not to list the George River herd provincially “ the specific request of Indigenous governments and communities in Labrador...”.

Hunting of this herd by non-Indigenous people is now banned. The Cree and Inuit that share the herd have adopted voluntary bands on hunting. However, at last report, people from the Innu Nation were still hunting the caribou.

Related news

George River caribou herd shows first population gain in over 25 years

A news story about an increase in the George River herd. The herd has increased to an estimated 8,100, up from 5,500 in 2018. The herd's historical population peak was an estimated 750,000 caribou. A ban on hunting the herd remains in place.
16 October 2020 | CBC

Nunavik pushes for its right to manage and harvest region’s caribou

The organization that represents Inuit in Nunavik (Northern Quebec) is working on an Inuit-led management plan for caribou in the region. They are concerned that the province does not recognize the priority of Inuit in hunting the caribou, and that federal government conservation planning does not distingush between the three herds in Nunavik. The herds in question (George River, Leaf River and Torngat Mountain) are all classified as Eastern Migratory Caribou.
21 July 2020 | Nunatsiaq News

Researchers watching the balance between Nunavik’s wolves and caribou

The Quebec government is responding to reports of increasing wolf predation on the Leaf River herd by satellite collaring wolves to track their level of caribou predation. The story also mentions that the provincial government is working on a management plan for the Leaf River herd.
26 May 2020 | Nunatsiaq News

First Nation bans Indigenous harvest of declining caribou herd in northern Quebec

The Cree Nation Government has voted in favour of a ban on Cree hunters harvesting caribou from the George River herd, whose numbers have seen a decline of 99 per cent since 2001.
8 January 2020 | Radio Canada International

Related resources

"You can never replace the caribou": Inuit Experiences of Ecological Grief from Caribou Declines

A 59-page academic paper on the effects of caribou declines on Inuit in Nunatsiavut and NunatuKavut (Labrador). The paper discusses their grief and cultural loss.
American Imago, Volume 77, Number 1, Spring 2020, pp. 31-59 (2020)

Usage: Non-commercial with attribution
Format: pdf

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“We’re Made Criminals Just to Eat off the Land”: Colonial Wildlife Management and Repercussions on Inuit Well-Being

This academic article looks at management of the Mealy Mountain Herd of woodland caribou in Nunatsiavut (Labrador), and the impacts of the management on Inuit in the nearby community of Rigolet. While the herd is not not covered by this site, the article raises issues of the exclusion of local people from meaningful input into management of the herd that have echoes across the northern caribou range. It concludes, "...the multi-generational and enduring negative effects of exclusionary and discriminatory Western management policies, enacted with little to no Indigenous involvement or consideration, is clear in this research, and illustrates not only the limitations of many western approaches to wildlife management, but the need for rectification and redress."

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Format: web

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Aerial Survey of the George River Caribou Herd - July 2020

A 15':30" movie of a powerpoint presentation on the 2020 survey of the George River Caribou herd. The survey estimates the herd is up to 8,100 from 5,500 in 2018. Most of the increase is thought to be due to a higher calving rate. The "results' section starts about 7':47" in. This is the first time time in 20 years that herd numbers have trended upwards.
Government of Newfoundland and Labrador (2020)

Usage: Non-commercial with attribution
Format: video

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Where to spend the winter? The role of intraspecific competition and climate in determining the selection of wintering areas by migratory caribou

A 2019 academic paper on the effects of competition between different caribou herds in choosing winter ranges. The paper focuses on the George River and Leaf River herds.

Innu Nation threatening future of George River caribou

A news release from the Nunatsiavut Government talking about the strained relations with the neighboring Innu over hunting of the George River herd.
Nunatsiavut Government (2018)

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Format: pdf

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Human disturbance effects and cumulative habitat loss in endangered migratory caribou

A 2018 academic paper to assess the effects of human disturbance on barren-ground caribou herds. This study focuses on the Leaf River and George River herds in northern Quebec and Labrador. The paper finds caribou do avoid human disturbance but makes no findings on the impacts to the health of the two herds
Université Laval (2018)

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Format: pdf

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