Coral Harbour caribou count to begin this weekend

The chair of the Coral Harbour Hunters and Trappers Organization is not ruling out harvest restrictions to save Southampton Island's caribou herd but says it will depend on the upcoming population survey's results.

Results could decide if hunting will be restricted

A caribou grazes near Baker Lake in 2009. Coral Harbour's Hunters and Trappers Organization and government officials will conduct a population survey of Southampton Island beginning this weekend. (Canadian Press)

The chair of the Coral Harbour Hunters and Trappers Organization is not ruling out harvest restrictions to save Southampton Island’s caribou herd but says it will depend on the upcoming population survey’s results.

HTO and government officials hope to begin a count this weekend. It comes just a year after the last survey, which found the population had shrunk dramatically.

HTO chair Noah Kadlak said the new survey could determine whether the hunt should be limited.

"We can't say exactly if that's going to happen, but if it does have lower numbers, that might be possible," he said. "It's going to be a tough decision to make." 

The Southampton Island caribou herd was wiped out once before — in the 1950s. About 50 animals were later brought to the island from nearby Coats Island.

That population grew to be as large as 30,000 animals at one point. But last year's survey found the herd had dropped to about 7,000.

Concerns were expressed last year the population was being overharvested to meet the demand for caribou meat in some Baffin Island communities where caribou are scarce.