North

Wek'eezhii board recommends total ban on hunting Bathurst caribou

The Wek'èezhii Renewable Resources Board is recommending a complete hunting ban on the Bathurst caribou herd and that plans for a wolf harvest proceed.

Also says Tlicho government's wolf harvesting project should go ahead

ENR says the Bathurst caribou herd's population has fallen to an estimated 19,769 animals in 2015 from an estimated 34,690 animals in 2013 — a decline of about 40 per cent over three years. (N.W.T. Department of Environment and Natural Resources)

The Wek'èezhii Renewable Resources Board is recommending a complete hunting ban on the Bathurst caribou herd and that plans for a wolf harvest proceed.

The board issued the first part of a two-part decision on a proposed management plan by the Northwest Territories government and the Tlicho Government on Thursday.

It cites the Department of Environment and Natural Resources' total population estimate for the herd having fallen to an estimated 19,769 animals in 2015 from an estimated 34,690 animals in 2013 — a decline of about 40 per cent over three years and a decrease of 96 per cent since the peak population estimated at 470,000 in 1986.

A ban on hunting caribou from the Bathurst herd took effect in the N.W.T. in January 2010, but a limited hunt was permitted for aboriginal groups. In late 2014, the N.W.T. stopped issuing hunting tags for the Bathurst herd to aboriginal groups, save for a 15-animal harvest set aside for ceremonial use.

The board's decision this week determines that a total allowable harvest of zero should be implemented for all users of the Bathurst caribou herd within the Wek'èezhii area for 2016 to 2019. 

"A serious conservation concern exists for the Bathurst caribou," the board said in a news release. 

"The herd is in crisis given the continuing decline in the breeding females, poor breeding rates, impacts of environmental factors, and extensive exploration and development on the herd's annual range."

The board's decision also recommends the implementation of the Tlicho government's community-based wolf harvesting project and the timely completion of a wolf feasibility assessment.

The board says the first part of the report issued Thursday concerns proposed management actions that will require regulation changes before the start of the 2016/2017 harvest season. The second part of the report, which will deal with additional predator management actions, biological and environmental monitoring, and cumulative effects, will be issued in August.

now