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N.W.T. stops issuing remaining Bathurst caribou tags

The N.W.T. minister of environment, Michael Miltenberger, says the territorial government wants to set up a no-hunting zone around the Bathurst caribou herd's core.

Territorial government wants to set up no-hunting zone around herd's core

The N.W.T. government wants to set up a no-hunting zone around the Bathurst caribou herd's core. (CBC)

The N.W.T. government has formally suspended the issuing of tags to Tlicho and Yellowknives Dene hunters for hunting the Bathurst caribou herd.

Michael Miltenberger, N.W.T. minister of Environment, told aboriginal groups about the government's decision Thursday, following five months of meetings.

Miltenberger said the measure became necessary as the hunting season progressed without any agreement on how to conserve the herd. The territorial government says the Bathurst herd has shrunk to less than 15,000 animals. 

"We worked up to the 11th hour trying to see if we could come to a consensus and accommodation," Miltenberger said. 

N.W.T. Environment Minister Michael Miltenberger says the territorial government wants to create a mobile protective zone around a group of Bathurst caribou cows fitted with tracking collars. (CBC)

"We weren't able to. And I indicated months ago that we weren't going to be in a position to walk away empty-handed come hunting season with this issue unresolved."

Milternberger says the territorial government wants to create a mobile protective zone — a "fraction" of the size of the Bathurst herd's overall range — around a group of Bathurst caribou cows fitted with tracking collars. These cows are thought to be representative of where the core of the Bathurst herd is. 

The government continuously monitors the cows' movements via satellite. It also conducts reconnaissance surveys from the air on a less frequent basis. 

No hunting of Bathurst caribou would be allowed in the protective zone. 

Miltenberger says the territorial government will reconvene with aboriginal governments early in January to discuss the proposed protective zone.

"Until these discussions are concluded, ENR will not be issuing authorizations for the harvesting of Bathurst caribou," said a Friday news release.

Once the protective zone is in place, the territorial government would update aboriginal groups and hunters about the location of the core Bathurst herd on a weekly basis, says Miltenberger.

A harvest target for the Bluenose-East caribou herd will also be discussed at the January meetings.  

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