A Nunavut man and his narwhal tusk, reunited at last

When Noel Kaludjak lost a tag for his $1,500 narwhal tusk, he handed it over to his local wildlife office while awaiting a replacement tag. Cut to four years later...

Noel Kaludjak handed tooth over after losing its tag, then waited years to get item back

Noel Kaludjak, right, poses with the conservation officer who returned his narwhal tusk after a four-year delay. (submitted by Noel Kaludjak)

When Noel Kaludjak lost a tag for his $1,500 narwhal tusk, he tried to do the right thing: he handed the tusk over to the local wildlife office while he awaited a replacement tag. Little did he know it would take four years and a letter to a federal minister to get the item back in his hands. 

Kaludjak bought the tusk at the Coral Harbour's Northern Store and gave it to a local carver to work on.

"He did a pretty nice job," said Kaludjak. 

But during a family move from Coral Harbour to Rankin Inlet in December 2012, Kaludjak lost the tag — issued by Fisheries and Oceans Canada — that came with it. 

"I've heard of some stories about ivory with no tags or proper documentation, so I didn't want to keep it without a proper tag on it," Kaludjak said.

"So I went to the local wildlife office and told them about it, and right away they asked me to bring [the tusk] down."

He obliged and handed the one-and-a-half-metre tooth over.

Time passed, still nothing

Kaludjak was then instructed to go to the local RCMP detachment, sign an affidavit to swear the tusk was his, and off it went to the federal government.

Time passed. Kaludjak followed up periodically and stayed patient. But still...nothing.

Finally, last October, when Rankin Inlet's Hunter Tootoo was elected MP for Nunavut, Kaludjak reached out to him.

"I got a letter back that they'd look into it," Kaludjak said. "Maybe two weeks later, I got a letter back from Hunter that said they'd be replacing the tag as soon as possible."

Kaludjak went back to the wildlife office the day officers there called to report the new tag was in. 

"They were happy to give it back to me," he said. "They didn't really want to keep it but they had no choice." 

'I got it back and that's all that matters'

While he doesn't understand why it took four years to get the tusk back, Kaludjak said he's doesn't hold any ill will toward Fisheries and Oceans Canada or the wildlife office. He said he understands how important it is to have the proper tags.

"Ivory and narwhal is taken very seriously. You can't just go out and get a tag, so I understand that," he said.

"I know it takes a long time. I know they're short-staffed and staff turnovers happen and stuff.

"I got it back and that's all that matters."