Quebec's warming Arctic becoming unsafe for Ski-Doos, native hunters warned

Aboriginal hunters in northern Quebec are being asked to return to dogsledding as climate change continues to eat away at ice floes, making snowmobiling increasingly dangerous.

Aboriginal hunters in northern Quebec are being asked to return to dogsledding as climate change continues to eat away at ice floes, making snowmobiling increasingly dangerous.

Inuit hunters have long relied on snowmobiles to cruise the thick Arctic ice shelf but rising temperatures are causing the ice to thin so much that heavy motorized vehicles are no longer safe, said Martin Tremblay, an environmental researcher with the Kativik Regional Government, which oversees Nunavik, Quebec's largely Inuit Arctic region.

"We find that the freezeup comes later than before, and the [ice] breakup comes earlier than before, and also, in general, during the winter months the ice is more unstable," Tremblay, who is based in Kuujjuaq, told CBC News.

The recommendation follows a two-year study that measured snowmobile safety on Quebec's ice floes.

Dogsleds are a safer option for ice that may have weak spots because of melting, Tremblay explained.

Dogsleds weigh less than snowmobiles and huskies are bred to sniff out changes in the ice, he said. They can tell where the ice is too thin and too dangerous to cross.

The Kativik Regional Government will encourage hunters to revive dogsledding, especially in the early winter season, but officials expect to meet resistance, Tremblay said.

"We know it's hard to have team dogs. During the summer, team dogs are not very useful, but we have to give them meat, and meat, and meat," he said.