Caribou's eye view: Quebec researchers plan to equip herd with body cameras

Researchers will equip caribou with body cameras to better understand what is killing off the Leaf River herd.

Researchers hope to shed light on what's causing the drastic population drop in the Leaf River herd

Researchers hope to find out why 40 per cent of the young caribou in Leaf River do not survive. (submitted by Luc Gervais and Sylvain Paquin)

Researchers have a plan to figure out why 40 per cent of young caribou in the Leaf River area of northern Quebec do not survive.

The plan will see scientists take to helicopters to shoot nets at female caribou. They will then install collar cameras before letting them go.

Researchers hope the cameras will allow them to monitor the actions of females as they migrate through the James Bay region, hopefully shedding light on the high mortality rate among the Leaf River herd.

The latest estimate pegs the Leaf River herd's population at 199,000 caribou, down from around 430,000 in 2011. 
A herd of caribou in Leaf River, Que. (Reuters/Rock Arssenault)

Steeve Côté, a biology professor at Laval University and director of the research project, said by placing cameras on female caribou researchers will get more accurate information about the lives of the caribou born this fall.   

Quebec limits hunting permits

The Quebec government has called the situation of the Lead River herd "worrying," and pledged to create a ministerial committee that will propose "mitigation measures."

In addition, the government has promised to cut the total number of hunting permits in half.

This winter, sport hunters are allowed to harvest up to 2,732 animals in Inuit and Cree territory. Only 1,366 permits will be made available for the 2017-18 hunting season.

Cree leaders in Quebec have been calling for an end to the sports hunt of the Leaf River herd for years, saying the government's actions fall short of what's needed.