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WTF? Prancer and Blitzen Dying Off in Canada

WTF? Prancer and Blitzen Dying Off in Canada

Prancer, Blitzen and the rest of Santa’s crew are suffering massive species loss in Canada.

The world’s largest reindeer herd has plummeted in size, with local indigenous people blaming the spread of massive industrial projects in the area.

The George River herd, which once numbered nearly a million animals, stands today at just 74,000 – a drop of around 92%.

The herd roams the vast tundra of Quebec and Labrador in eastern Canada. Known as caribou in North America, the animals are central to the culture of the Cree and Innu people of the region.

However, in recent decades, large parts of the herd’s range have been disrupted by a series of huge projects. Iron-ore mining, flooding vast areas for hydro-power and road-building have all taken their toll, according to Innu people.

Innu Elder and Chief Georges-Ernest Gregoire told Survival International:

The caribou (reindeer) is central to our culture, our spiritual beliefs and to our society as hunters that have lived on our homeland, Nitassinan [Quebec-Labrador peninsula], for thousands of years.

But all the massive industrial “development” projects that have been imposed on our land in the last forty years have undoubtedly had a cumulative impact on the size of the caribou herd. That is why we need real control over our territories and resources, and why we must be involved as equals in decisions that affect our lands and the animals that live there.

Another Innu man, Alex Andrew, said:

Our elders say that the animals will be the first to feel the effects of all this damage. The food chain cycle will be broken and many will suffer in the end.

And so much development like hydropower, mining, roads, forestry, will be only adding to the dilemma that is facing the animals’ survival.

In 1992, an official Newfoundland biologist said:

“The (George River caribou) herd is going down at a very steady pace and we don’t know how to stop it. The number of animals dying is greater than the number of animals being born.”

At that time the herd numbered around 600,000 caribou, having already passed its peak of more than 900,000 several years earlier. Stu Luttich, the aforementioned government biologist, had no trouble predicting the future:

“It will go down to a very, very low level, probably to less than a 100,000 head….”

Survival International’s Director Stephen Corry said:

If we really do care about the real impact the natural world has on us and vice-versa – rather than just watching it on television – it’s time to start listening to tribal peoples. They know what they’re talking about. For the Innu, reindeer aren’t just for Christmas.

But writing last year in The Labradorian, Michael Johansen also blamed the Innu:

Perhaps nothing could have been done (despite 20 years of clearly ignored warnings), but the governments involved could have at least admitted the problem existed and worked together to prevent the worst-case scenario: the possible extinction of the herd. If they are managed wisely and the caribou are allowed to reproduce, their numbers will rebound to a healthy level. If everyone co-operates to maintain the herd at around 300,000 individuals, it could easily support a reasonable amount of hunting for sport, commerce and sustenance.

Unfortunately, the Quebec government is doing nothing, the Innu will likely continue to exercise their aboriginal rights, and the Newfoundland government is already weakening its belated resolve by handing out licenses to outfitters who complain about the ban.

Alas for the George River caribou herd.

Related stories:

Culling Wolves Will Not Save Caribou

Canada Parks Turn 100

Reindeer Games We Don’t Want To Play

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67 comments

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11:47PM PST on Jan 12, 2012

Seattle Ann: I find your comment highly offensive and just a more than a little hypocritical -"Canada sure is not doing much to change is world-wide reputation of inhumanity. Strangely, there seems to be many humane Canadians, so it begs the question of how an industrialized nation can blatantly keep ignoring its own citizens as well as the rest of the world"
What an oddly incongruous and disingenuous comment coming from someone who is American perhaps?(an assumption based upon your name?) I was not aware that Canada's reputation of "inhumanity" had somehow surpassed that of your own country. Satisfy my curiosity and tell me what you are basing this upon if you would please - because it occurs that if American politicians are merely obeying the "will of the people" with regards to their stewardship of the environment, personhood for both corporations and fetus's, the unleashing of GMO's on the world, the highest incarceration rate of ANY country in the world of its own citizens .. need I continue, or do you perhaps understand how said "ignoring" by the powers that be might come to pass? Not really so "strange" is it?

7:26PM PST on Jan 12, 2012

Canada sure is not doing much to change is world-wide reputation of inhumanity. Strangely, there seems to be many humane Canadians, so it begs the question of how an industrialized nation can blatantly keep ignoring its own citizens as well as the rest of the world.

9:56AM PST on Jan 4, 2012

Another shameful spot on humans. When will the killing stop?

10:19PM PST on Jan 2, 2012

Really sad.

1:58PM PST on Jan 1, 2012

The tar sands project will probably kill off most of the current survivors.

1:50PM PST on Jan 1, 2012

Humans are over populating our planet. And we seem to need huge place to do our destruction.

We have to learn to share our planet. We have hurt and destroyed to much and need to plant and clean up We can still get a balance. But we need to start now...not in a few years.

10:53PM PST on Dec 27, 2011

thanks for getting the word out, it's been happening for awhile.

7:19PM PST on Dec 26, 2011

I guess I'd first off opt for the native peoples, just because usually the old ways die out long before any species does. I've seen it before, five hundred years compressed into a generation and then everyone is off to the city. I have a similar attitude over polar bears. The Inuit can hunt unrestricted and I figure great, for them it's part of the life they and their fathers fathers before them led and their children will only know through stories.

6:06PM PST on Dec 26, 2011

they didn't dance around singing happy songs with the caribou in friendship. man was just a two legged "wolf".

they are mining for iron, but using hydro power. what if they just built hydroelectric dams. everyone wants 'clean energy"

oil? what do you think your ethical fake fur is made out of?

6:03PM PST on Dec 26, 2011

Wildlife C.

everything thing goes that way. it becomes a case by case issue, and who has it worse. wolves need to be saved more than a ________, because of bad PR that spans posible 1000+ years. so if North America had 900,000 wolves, defenders of the wild would still seek to have donations to help them, while the New Gunia Singing dog would get classifed as C.Lupus Domesticus(a dog, a bowwow dog) and thus not a speciese worth saving.

management and conservation issues "need" people's emotions. if there is some hidious insect people are eating, nobody will care. but if hunter gatherers are eating something that looks like their pet. we need a mission to save them

it is not black and white. you need someone that is like a chess master to lay all the cards out on the table(mixed metaphores) so, for this, eliminate all hunting by man? even for the natives (rights smights?)Rangifer tarandus caribou only for wolves.

so now we have the issue. does progress stop for the Innu or caribu or both? would you suggest evicting them from their land and tell them the "reindeer" are more important?
I don't know, maybe they would take it well.

now how to we make a delicate dance for both parties? it is hard to go "OH lalala hgjkhsdgjkshhgjsh must live in peace harmony with beasts! wooahlalaalmungogunjgo!" people will not be happy to abandon any progress. and make accommodation. people who have been living with these animals, were killing, eating, wearing and making houses out

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