Ban on Bathurst caribou hunt finding acceptance
Three years later, anger over N.W.T. restrictions subsiding
It was three years ago this week that the N.W.T. government announced a controversial ban on hunting barren-ground caribou.
It was an emergency response to the news the Bathurst herd had dropped to 30,000 animals from 120,000 in six years.
Initially people in the Tlicho region disputed the ban, saying they weren't consulted. Some questioned the government's science. Others said a complete ban was too heavy-handed.
Now, three years later, a co-management strategy still has its hurdles. The Tlicho government is working with the GNWT limiting the hunt and monitoring the harvest.
Numbers are up — 3,000 more animals — but there are fewer calves so the herd is still fragile.
"If we don't maintain that cautious approach, it may all be for nothing," said Kerri Garner with the Tlicho lands department.
Behchoko Chief Clifford Daniels says three years after the hunting ban, there's more acceptance of the new reality.
"People were very frustrated, very angry," he said. "They needed to vent. Over time, and doing consultations, it's a gradual adapting to these changes that are affecting us."
While they're hunting less, some Tlicho still wonder about the accuracy of the caribou count and the effects of wolves and mining.
Daniels hopes the sacrifices pay off.
"Once again the Tlicho is being tested," he said. "We're hopefully going outside the norm, and trying to make sure the caribou is around for the next generation."