As of Jan. 1, all harvesting will be closed in a new no-hunting conservation zone north of Yellowknife that stretches from the Tlicho Winter Road to Gameti, east to the Hoarfrost River in the East Arm, and North to Nunavut – the winter herding grounds of the Bathurst caribou. Commercial, non-resident and resident hunting is also closed in the North and South Slave Regions.
“There will be no (caribou) hunting for anybody,” Environment and Natural Resources (ENR) Minister Michael Miltenberger said on the phone from Copenhagen, Denmark on Friday. “The Bathurst herd is going to be off-limits in that area – and hunting of any caribou in that area – for anyone.”
A photographic survey conducted by the department in June concluded that number of breeding females on the herd’s caving grounds has dropped from 55,600 in 2006 to 16,600 (plus or minus 4,500 animals) in 2009. The herd’s total population is estimated to be 31,900 animals (plus or minus 11,000), down from 100,000 animals three years ago. The results of the survey were released in September. A calving ground survey of the herd is planned for 2012.
Miltenberger said the department would be working with the communities in the area to monitor and patrol the new “no hunting” zone.
“We’re going to bring on a number of extra staff … to able to be there to make sure this goes as smoothly as possible,” he explained.
Restrictions to protect herd populations has been done for a number of years, Miltenberger explained.
Bathurst caribou winter near a populated area, with the City of Yellowknife and the Tlicho communities nearby, Miltenberger said.
“It’s a fairly heavily concentrated area,” he said. “Very complex arrangements have to be considered.”
In November, a joint proposal regarding caribou actions in Wek’eezhii was submitted to the Wek’eezhi Renewable Resources Board (WRRB), the wildlife co-management authority created by the Tlicho Agreement. The proposal was submitted by the ENR and the Tlicho Government (TG).
The proposal contained a consensus on a number of actions including: establishing mandatory reporting of harvest; the elimination of all commercial outfitter tags and resident hunting for a three-year period; increasing the number of collars on female caribou; maintaining the current level of protection on the herd’s calving grounds; and boosting public education and compliance of harvesting practices.
The new regulations will remain in place until recommendations from the Wek’eezhii Renewable Resources Board on barren-ground caribou management are implemented. The board is not anticipated to complete its work on the joint proposal until sometime in February, Miltenberger explained.
“Herds are so small that if we let one more hunting season go on without any restrictions coming into place sometime later in February or March it would put the herd in even more danger,” he said.