Wildlife officers investigate ‘shocking’ death of endangered Gaspé caribou

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Wildlife officers in the Gaspé region of Quebec are investigating the death of an endangered caribou that was found eviscerated.

A hunter spotted the caribou in Gaspésie Provincial Park, about 30 km south of Sainte-Anne-des-Monts on October 26 and reported it to the local wildlife office.

The animal’s skin and antlers were in place, but its organs and entrails had been removed.

“We were shocked. We are trying to figure out why this animal was slaughtered, gutted and abandoned,” Paul Montpetit, a lieutenant with the provincial wildlife office in New Richmond, told CBC News.

Dwindling herd

The animal, a woodland caribou of the mountain ecotype, is part of a small herd that roams the park.

According to the federal government’s Species at Risk Public Registry, the park’s isolated population numbered as many as 1,000 caribou in the 1950s, with a steady decline over the decades.

The population of woodland caribou of the mountain ecotype in Gaspésie exceeded 1,000 in the 1950s. The Ministère de la Faune du Québec estimates that there are only 75 left. (Denis Desjardins/SEPAQ)

In 2007, there were about 250. Montpetit now estimates that there are only 75 caribou left.

He said that every caribou counts.

“It’s very serious. If the numbers continue to drop and drop and drop, we could end up with no more of this species in the area,” Montpetit said.

The province classifies the species as threatened and the federal government classifies it as endangered. It is forbidden to injure the animals or damage their habitat.

$20,000 fine

Montpetit said those convicted of killing vulnerable animals can be fined up to $20,000 for a first offense.

He said investigators are unsure of the motive for the killing, but local hunters are generally respectful of vulnerable species and follow the rules.

“We’re sure someone somewhere heard or saw something, and we’d like to have that information,” Montpetit said.

He asks anyone with information to contact the ministry aanonymous poaching tip line at 1-800-463-2191.

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