Wolf hunting proposed as part of latest Bathurst caribou plan
Wek'eezhii Renewable Resources Board holds public hearings this week
The latest plan to protect the Bathurst caribou herd has the Tlicho and N.W.T. governments looking to reduce wolf populations.
The Tlicho already stopped harvesting the animals last fall. In the proposed three-year joint management plan, both the N.W.T. and Tlicho governments are pushing to extend the hunting ban until the herd shows signs of recovery.
The plan, which is being discussed this week at public hearings by the Wek'eezhii Renewable Resources Board in Yellowknife, also includes a community wolf harvesting pilot project.
Elder Joe Rabesca said he supports reducing the number of wolves.
"I've seen wolves hunt as we do and I can tell you they take more than us," he said.
Last fall, the N.W.T. government said a summer calving ground survey had shown the Bathurst caribou herd was continuing to decline, and may be down to as few as 16,000 animals, compared to the 35,000 animals estimated in 2012. That's down from close to half a million in 1985.
The Tlicho government is hoping to launch its pilot project this winter. It wants to train Tlicho hunters, who would then target wolves in the moving no-hunting zone that's been established around collared caribou in their winter range.
A wildlife biologist with the Tlicho Government says each wolf takes between 15 and 30 caribou in a year.
It's still unclear how effective a wolf harvest would be on a large scale.
"No one has done [wolf control] for these tundra migratory herds," said Dr. Jan Adamczewski, a biologist with the N.W.T's Department of Environment and Natural Resources. "To some extent we will be learning as we go."
Alongside the pilot project, ENR plans to do further studies to try to find out the most effective way to reduce the wolf population and by how much.