For the second time this winter, hunters may be targeting Labrador caribou in a closed zone, wildlife officials say.
CBC News has learned that Innu hunters from Quebec are near the threatened Joir River caribou. Fewer than 100 of the animals remain in the caribou herd, which roam in an area south of Happy Valley-Goose Bay.
The Department of Natural Resources told CBC that conservation and wildlife officers are closely watching about 15 hunters from Quebec that have been sighted in the area. Another 25 hunters are on the way, the department said in a statement.
No one from the government was available for a formal interview.
"This is an illegal hunt," a statement from Natural Resources Minister Kathy Dunderdale's office said.
"The Joir River caribou are sedentary woodland caribou, similar to Red Wine and Mealy Mountain caribou with which they intermix in the area surrounding Joir River. These caribou are protected."
Earlier this year, Innu hunters from Sheshatshiu, an Innu community near Happy Valley-Goose Bay, shot dozens of animals in a different closed zone. That hunt occurred because the Sheshatshiu Innu wanted to have access to non-threatened caribou in the area.
There is no evidence that any threatened animals were killed. Sheshatshiu Innu leaders said their hunters were able to identify threatened caribou because of radio collars.
No one has been charged in that hunt.
The current situation, however, is different, as all of the caribou in the Joir River area are protected.
The Department of Natural Resources is concerned that the Quebec hunters are specifically targeting endangered caribou.
So far, no evidence has been found that any Joir River caribou have been killed.
In 2007, two Quebec Innu men were fined for hunting endangered Mealy Mountain caribou.