Southampton Island caribou at risk of being wiped out
Government of Nunavut biologist says current hunting levels are unsustainable
The caribou herd on Southampton Island, which was wiped out in the 1950s, may face extinction once again.
Mitch Campbell, a wildlife biologist with the Government of Nunavut, says disease and overhunting are threatening the herd on the island at the mouth of Hudson Bay.
He said a reproductive disease called brucellosis infected the island herd in 2000 and as a result, pregnancy rates have dropped to about 30 per cent from 80 per cent.
Now social media like Facebook and cheap shipping rates from the airlines for country food are helping people in communities like Iqaluit where caribou is scarce order meat from Coral Harbour hunters, putting more stress on the herd.
The herd on Southampton Island was hunted to extinction in the 1950s, and was re-established when 50 animals were transplanted there in 1968.
"They've gone down from a high of 30,000 in 1997 to what we surveyed this last June which was about 7,500 animals," said Campbell.
Campbell said more than 1,500 caribou had been exported this winter, which is higher than the birth rate, and that is only halfway through the season.
"We believe that if this isn't stopped, this is an unsustainable harvest and probably will cause the population to be devastated within the next three years or so," he said.
"One of the only ways that we will be able to control the harvest is by applying a total allowable harvest."
Campbell said efforts to meet with the Coral Harbour Hunters and Trappers Organization have been unsuccessful.
No one from the organization was available to speak with CBC.