Leave the caribou alone! That's the message from the Government of Quebec in a December 15 news release warning the public of the adverse health effects human activity could have on the animals, especially a population of what are called mountain caribou, an ecotype of the woodland caribou that can be found in the highlands of the Gaspé Peninsula.
The Ministry of Forests, Wildlife and Parks (MFFP) says the Gaspé mountain caribou have been considered threatened in the province since 2009 and represent the "last vestige" of a population that used to span eastern Canada and the northeastern United States.
Officials estimate that just 32 to 36 of the animals remain in Gaspé.
The MFFP is asking Quebecers to avoid parts of the Réserve faunique des Chic-Chocs and to consider visiting other parks following recent caribou sightings.
"Disturbance of caribou in a ravine (winter habitat) can lead to increased energy expenditure, particularly in calves, thus altering their physical condition," the ministry said in the release.
"This can even be detrimental to their survival by forcing them to move to areas that are less favourable for them."
Voluntarily approaching the caribou or allowing pets to do so is enough to disturb them, according to the ministry. And there could be consequences for anyone who does.
The MFFP states that disrupting caribou or other big game activity in their natural habitat could land you a minimum fine of $1,825 and a two-year hunting license suspension.
This article's cover image was used for illustrative purposes only.