03/01/2013 02:37 EST | Updated 05/01/2013 05:12 EDT

N.L. to paint caribou as part of census project

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. - The Newfoundland government says it wants a more accurate idea of how many caribou are living in the eastern and central portions of the island.

The Environment Department issued a statement Friday saying it plans to start a population census for the Middle Ridge caribou herd.

Starting next week, low-flying aircraft will be used to track the animals and mark some of them with red paint.

The department says neither the marking of the caribou nor the paint itself poses any risk to the animals.

When the marked caribou lose their winter coats this spring, the red paint will fall off the animals.