Ungulates: Better understanding for better protection

Caribou populations have faced a notable decline throughout Quebec, attributable in part to alterations of their habitats and pressures generated by human activities and natural ones, such as the forest fires of 2023.

The most recent government-led surveys of the various populations of woodland caribou show that the majority are in a “precarious state,” with the species designated as vulnerable by the Ministère de l’Environnement, de la Lutte contre les changements climatiques, de la Faune et des Parcs (MELCCFP; the Ministry), with certain populations on the verge of extinction.

In 2023, it was estimated that between 6,162 and 7,445 woodland caribou were distributed in Quebec. The distribution areas are a continuous strip of boreal forests of approximately 500 km, located between the 49th and 55th parallel, where Winsome’s activities are found, as well as populations found in Val-d’Or and in Charlevoix, as specified on the Ministry website that is dedicated to this species.

Caribou (‘Atikh’ in Cree) hunting is a very important traditional practice for the Cree and Innu communities. Some members of the Cree Nation are concerned about the decline of the species, particularly for sustaining their traditional ways of life.

The preservation of caribou and the ecosystems essential to their survival is therefore a major priority for governments, local communities, and for Winsome.

To minimize its impacts on ungulates, Winsome’s team undertook a first helicopter-borne survey in February 2024, aimed at documenting their presence on the territory, including an area that had never been surveyed prior. This survey will improve our knowledge on the distribution of ungulates and identify key areas and times of presence across this landscape. Thus, Winsome will be able to plan to adapt any of its activities that may happen to interact with crucial places and times.

Team work

Since our activities take place in an environment where several stakeholders have a keen interest in wildlife, including caribou and moose, we worked with the Direction de la gestion de la faune du Nord-du-Québec and certain members of the Cree Nation to ensure that the needs of all are incorporated into our approaches. After holding meetings with various stakeholders and obtaining an appropriate permit, it was established that our survey area would increase from 1,600 km2 to 3,000 km2. All data collected will be shared with the Ministry and Winsome will also request existing historical data to have the most complete portrait possible of ungulates in the region.

It is important for Winsome that this survey is included at the very beginning of the mining cycle, i.e., at the exploration stage. This allows Winsome to proactively plan mitigation measures and integrate them into its technical studies. Hence, these measures are an integral part of the development of its activities.

Following this ungulate (woodland caribou and moose) survey, other wildlife studies will follow to provide an overview of the territory on which Winsome operates.

For our team, it is crucial to establish protection measures based on traditional knowledge and science to ensure a sustainable balance between human activities and the conservation of biodiversity. Follow us for updates on these studies.