Liver Parasites and Body Condition in Relation to Environmental Contaminants in Caribou (<i>Rangifer tarandus</i>) from Labrador, Canada


  • Beth Pollock
  • Basile Penashue
  • Scott McBurney
  • John Vanleeuwen
  • Pierre-Yves Daoust
  • Neil M. Burgess
  • Andrew R. Tasker



body condition, environmental contaminants, liver fluke, Fascioloides magna, parasites, Rangifer tarandus, cadmium, Innu people, Labrador, George River caribou herd


Over the last several decades, elders and hunters of the Innu Nation in Labrador, Canada, have expressed concerns over perceived declines in environmental health and the integrity of country food, including caribou. The primary objective of this study was to determine links between specific health parameters and contaminants found in caribou from the George River herd. Twenty-seven caribou killed by local Innu hunters between February and December 2001 were evaluated for gross and microscopic pathology, body condition, liver parasitology, and contaminant levels in kidney and fat. Overall, the sampled caribou appeared to be in adequate body condition for the time of year, and no clinically significant lesions were found. Concentrations of selenium, metals (Hg, Cd, and Pb), 20 organochlorine pesticides (HCB, a-HCH, g-HCH, aldrin, dieldrin, methoxychlor, mirex, a- and b-endosulfan, heptachlor, heptachlor epoxide, g-CHL, cis-CHL, trans-nonachlor, and o,p'- and p,p'-DDD, DDE, DDT), and 24 PCB congeners were within the ranges reported for caribou in Canada. In general, contaminant levels were relatively low, with the exception of cadmium in kidneys (geometric mean: 6.5 μg/g wet weight; range: 1.5–44.0 μg/g). Two types of liver parasites were found: the liver fluke Fascioloides magna (prevalence: 78%; geometric mean abundance: 4.2 flukes/caribou) and a tapeworm larva consistent with Taenia hydatigena (prevalence: 50%; geometric mean abundance: 0.6 larvae/caribou). Using multiple variable regression analysis, we found renal concentrations of cadmium to be positively associated, and selenium to be negatively associated, with F. magna abundance.