NWT wolf hunting incentive brings in 20 wolves

A dead wolf, brought to an Environment and Natural Resources office, is worth $200 in the NWT. Skinned, it can be worth as much as $800. One clear goal of the program is to encourage trapping, while another - protecting caribou - is not well studied.

The program has been in place for a year, and is in addition to existing hunting and trapping programs

Hunters who deliver wolf skins prepared to taxidermy standards can recieve as much as $800 under the incentive program. (Wayne Chicoine)

It's been a year since the territory started offering an incentive for wolf hunters. The incentive offers $200 for an intact, dead wolf, brought to an ENR office. 

So far, 20 wolves have been brought in under the new program.

That's in addition to the 158 whose pelts were sold at auction through the Genuine Mackenzie Valley Fur program. 

The incentive program has its origins in the Tlicho government, whose members wanted more done to protect the caribou herds. The Tlicho also saw the program as a way of encouraging traditional practices.

"The Tlicho government has always supported this program, because it gets people out on the land, and it's our hope that it also helps the caribou," says Sjoerd Van Der Wielen, the Tlicho lands protection manager. 

Little evidence program helps caribou

The evidence that it is in fact helping caribou is uncertain.

ENR spokesperson Judy Mclinton declined to elaborate on any scientific basis for the program, saying only in an emailed statement, "Predation is one of the factors affecting barren-ground and boreal caribou populations."

Programs like the incentive "use language like saving caribou," says Chris Darimont, Hakai-Raincoast Professor at the University of Victoria and an expert in predator culls. 

"But what this does do is garner local support for increased hunting and trapping. I see them more as a social policy rather than an ecological or management policy."

In combination with the Genuine Mackenzie Valley Fur program, the incentive is indeed helping to encourage hunting and trapping. A wolf skin prepared to taxidermy standards can net as much as $800 after the bonuses and incentives offered through the two programs, regardless of the price it actually fetches at auction. 

That's by design, explains Francois Rossouw, who heads the Genuine Mackenzie Valley Fur program. He says paying trappers for their furs and then selling them on their behalf means trappers aren't exposed to the fluctuations of the market. 

"It was designed for when we had dips," he says. Prices have declined lately, he believes, because of internal crackdowns on Chinese politicians, a formerly enthusiastic consumer of Canadian furs.

Wild fur production declining

But at the same time, fur production is falling for its own reasons.

"Like it or not, wild fur, production of wild fur across the board has declined. That's because old trappers are no longer trapping." 

It appears that that is where the new incentive comes in.

"Some families are saying, 'I don't want to skin a wolf, so what are the options for me?'" says Van Der Wielen. 

Paying money for an intact (not skinned) wolf helps encourage hunting and trapping practices, letting people participate while not having to spend the several hours of skilled work required to skin the wolf to a high standard.

ENR did not answer questions regarding whether or not the program is affecting caribou populations, and it is not clear whether it is studying any such effects.

Rossouw, however, believes wolf populations are in decline. 

"The production of wolves is declining," he says.

"There are not as many wolves out there as people seem to think."


Jimmy Thomson is a former reporter for CBC North.