Bathurst caribou herd could be down to 16,000 animals, says gov't

The N.W.T. government says the Bathurst caribou herd may be down to as few as 16,000 animals, sharing its latest 'extremely worrisome' estimates with aboriginal groups earlier this week.

President of North Slave Métis Alliance says he would be in support of a complete hunting ban

A recent letter sent to aboriginal groups by the Government of the Northwest Territories says that the Bathurst caribou herd population could be as low as 16,000 animals, an over 50 per cent decline from 2012. (GNWT)

The N.W.T. government says the Bathurst caribou herd may be down to as few as 16,000 animals.

The government shared its latest "extremely worrisome" estimates with aboriginal groups earlier this week. The results build on a previous letter, sent in early July, that indicated the number of breeding cows in the herd has declined by 50 per cent since 2012.

"The number of animals has continued to decline even without the added pressure of harvesting," wrote Ernie Campbell, the deputy minister of Environment and Natural Resources, in the follow-up letter, dated Sept. 2.

Basing its findings on the results of a June calving ground survey — though acknowledging that further analysis is needed — the government says the total herd is likely somewhere between 16,000 and 22,000 animals, compared to the 35,000 animals estimated in 2012.

With the fall hunt approaching, the government is asking aboriginal groups entitled to harvesting the herd for input on how to stem the herd's decline.

Currently, the government bans all harvesting of Bathurst caribou except for 15 bulls shared between the Yellowknives Dene First Nation, the Tlicho Government and the North Slave Métis Alliance.

Bill Enge, the president of the Métis Alliance, says his group is willing to see that number shaved to zero.

"There's no mention in the recent letter... about the 15 ceremonial tags. It is conspicuous and it could probably be because ENR feels those harvesting tags should not be issued to the aboriginal harvesters," he said.

"If... there's a total harvest ban on the Bathurst herd... we would be in support of that measure."


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