N.W.T.’s Bluenose-East, Bathurst caribou in ‘alarming’ decline

A June survey of the Northwest Territories’ barren ground caribou calving grounds suggest both the Bluenose-East and the Bathurst caribou herds ‘are declining at an alarming rate.’

Stakeholders to meet in October again to determine what measures to take before fall hunt

A June survey of the Bluenose-East and Bathurst caribou calving grounds in the Northwest Territories has found both herds are still in decline.

“The trends from these surveys suggest that both herds are declining at an alarming rate,” Michael Miltenberger, the N.W.T’s environment and natural resource minister, said in a news release.

Aboriginal and government leaders met with wildlife officials in Yellowknife this week to discuss the survey results and look into possible action.

“As leaders and managers, there is a need for us to review the current information about both herds and determine together, the management actions needed to help in their recovery and conservation,” Miltenberger said.

Stakeholders plan to meet again in October to determine what measures to take before the fall harvest. 

The N.W.T. government does reconnaissance surveys every year to follow trends in herd size; population surveys are done every three years.

A 2013 population survey of the Bluenose-East herd, which stretches from Colville Lake to the Beaufort Sea, found it had declined to about 68,000 animals from over 100,000 in 2010.

This year’s reconnaissance survey suggests “the herd has continued to decline by about 30 per cent.”

The department says the Bathurst herd — in the N.W.T's North Slave region and western Nunavut — has also declined significantly, without giving any numbers.

Population surveys for both herds are planned in 2015.

The news comes as the George River caribou in northern Quebec and Labrador and the caribou herds on Baffin Island are also in steep decline. There are fears that those herds could face extinction. 

The caribou herd on Nunavut's Southampton Island is also in rapid decline. In 2012, the island was the site of Nunavut's first caribou hunting quota for Inuit.