Fort Providence residents say gov't 'sugarcoated' bison meat distributed in community

Some residents of Fort Providence, N.W.T., say the government was being misleading when they said meat from bison hit by a truck would go to feed community members.

4 bison were killed on April 5, territorial government said meat would be distributed in community

Four dead bison were found on Highway 3 near Fort Providence after being hit by a truck. The territorial government said that meat harvested from the bison would go to Fort Providence residents. (Submitted by Rebecca and Richard Birch)

Some residents of Fort Providence, N.W.T., say the government was being misleading when they said meat from bison hit by a truck would go to feed community members.

On April 5, four bison were killed after being hit by a truck on Highway 3. The territory's Department of Environment and Natural Resources [ENR] told the CBC the meat from the bison had been harvested and would be distributed to elders in Fort Providence.

But some people in the community said the department is misrepresenting what happened. Several people told CBC they aren't aware that any elders received meat, but that it was used to feed sled dogs belonging to an ENR employee.

Among those in the community with concerns over what ENR said would happen with the meat is Aimee Chase. She said she was told the meat went to the sled dogs.

"If this is true, I feel like the original article should not have been sugarcoated to make it seem like a lot of people were going to be fed by these bison," she said.

"I can empathize with having a large amount of dogs to feed and how much that must cost, but I don't feel it is right for an ENR officer to use the meat they come into possession of through their job merely for their own gain," she said.

"Especially when I see a lot of dogs in the community who could also benefit from it as well, or even the dogs at the SPCA, as they accept those kinds of donations."

A spokesperson from the department said most of the meat was not suitable for human consumption, but what was salvageable was distributed to 15 households. They also said word was spread through the community that the meat was available.

According to the department, because of the late hour the bison were killed, they were left overnight before they were skinned and butchered. The following day an officer from the department found that some of the meat had already started to go bad, as unharvested bison deteriorates quickly, even at sub-zero temperatures.

Of the two male bulls, female cow and male calf that were killed, the department said only about one and a half bison were salvageable for humans or was borderline, meaning it could be cooked and given to pets.

It said this meat was divided and brought back to the community, given to pets or kept by ENR officers to use for things such as baiting wildlife for relocation purposes.

The spokesperson also noted the department is not obligated to harvest roadkill, but will do so to benefit communities and prevent meat from going to waste.