North

Yukon officials investigate caribou meat wastage cases

Yukon conservation officers are investigating after several members of the Porcupine caribou herd were found shot and left to waste along the Dempster Highway over Easter weekend.

Several caribou were shot and left to waste along the Dempster Highway

Remains of caribous lie on the ground near the Dempster Highway. It's the second time caribou have been found dead near the highway in less than six months. (submitted by Joe Bishop)

Yukon conservation officers are investigating after several members of the Porcupine caribou herd were found shot and left to waste along the Dempster Highway over Easter weekend.

"We don't know a whole lot quite yet, it's under investigation still," said officer Shawn Hughes. "Hopefully there is some explanation behind it. We don't know."

'Hopefully there is some explanation behind it. We don't know,' said investigating officer Shawn Hughes. (Meagan Deuling/CBC)

Abandoning an animal and wasting meat is an offence under the Yukon Wildlife Act. It's the second time caribou have been found dead near the highway in less than six months.

Hughes said there were two separate incidents reported this week — one involved two dead caribou that were found, the other involved just one abandoned carcass. He said the meat was spoiled and rotten, so it's possible the animals were killed late last week.

"At this point, we're looking for help from wherever we can get it, from the general public — if they were on the road and they know who was in the area at the time," Hughes said.

'Start respecting the caribou'

The Dempster highway runs right through the Porcupine caribou's range, and Hughes said the herd will be crossing the highway over the next month during its spring migration.

"Activity is just starting to ramp up quite a bit," he said. "We'll be out there monitoring."

Joe Tetlichi, chair of the Porcupine Caribou Management Board, said the board is doing what it can to address meat wastage, but it can only do so much. 
A dead caribou near the Dempster Highway. The Porcupine Caribou Management Board is using images of caribou found near the Dempster on posters to educate the public about meat wastage. (submitted by Joe Bishop)

"You get a scenario where there are caribou on the Dempster, and there is a lot of activity and sometimes people are not respecting the traditional way of harvesting."

"We've taken images of caribou that were left on the Dempster this fall, and we're using it on posters to get the message across."

'Everyone needs to start respecting the caribou,' said Joe Tetlichi, chair of the Porcupine Caribou Management Board. (Karen McColl/CBC)

Although Tetlichi acknowledges the importance of educating the population, he says that, ultimately, conserving the herd comes down to individuals working together to harvest animals respectfully.

"Everyone needs to start respecting the caribou. One of our posters speaks to that, it says 'with rights, comes responsibilities.'"

The board has also started distributing hunter education packages to Yukon communities, which "educate people in regard to the right and ethical way of hunting," according to Tetlichi.

Conservation officers are asking anyone with information to call the TIPP line at 1-800-661-0525.

now