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Environment and Conservation Minister Charlene Johnson said a forthcoming census will yield important information about the Red Wine caribou. ((CBC))

Conservation officials from Newfoundland and Labrador say it will be some time before they know whether any caribou from the protected Red Wine herd were killed in last week's hunt by Quebec-based Innu hunters.

Charlene Johnson, the minister of environment and conservation, said a census to be done next year would identify whether any members of the Labrador herd — which the provincial government believes has fewer than 100 animals — were killed.

However, Johnson suggested there could be an impact, based on the number of the Red Wine caribou that are monitored through a collaring system in the area of the hunt, a closed zone between Happy Valley-Goose Bay and Churchill Falls, in central Labrador.

"There are three collared-caribou in the Cache River area, that would equate to about 30 caribou in that area," she told CBC News.

"When you look at the population being less than 100, that's about 30 per cent of the total population at risk in that area."

The area is home to the much larger George River caribou herd, but also to the Red Wine herd, which the provincial government said is endangered because of its low numbers.

Johnson said, on average, six calves are born to caribou from the Red Wine herd every year. But she said that is countered with the herd's natural mortality rate, which is normally about five animals a year. She said, for that reason, the herd can't afford to lose any animals through hunting.

The Quebec hunters said the hunt in the closed zone was, in part, a protest over being left out of a land deal between the Newfoundland and Labrador government and the Labrador Innu.

The deal, known as the New Dawn Agreement, compensates the Labrador Innu for the hydroelectric development of the lower Churchill River.

Officials from both the Quebec Innu and the Newfoundland and Labrador government said they were willing to meet over the dispute, but there has been no talk of a date so far no talks are scheduled.