Yukon reopens hunt as Fortymile caribou population booms

Reduced to just 6,500 animals in 1995, the Fortymile caribou herd in Yukon has seen a remarkable comeback, now numbering around 84,000.

225 permits will be available until the end of March, wildlife officials say

Caribou graze near the Dempster Highway Oct. 18. Two major barren ground caribou herds are converging near the highway north of Dawson City, Yukon. (Heather Avery/CBC)

For the first time in 25 years, the Fortymile caribou herd is open for hunting.

The Yukon government imposed a ban on licensed hunting after the 1995 hunting season because the herd's population dropped to just 6,500 animals.

But conservation efforts have been successful and there are now an estimated 84,000 Fortymile caribou.

"We're comfortable that there's sufficient numbers there to have a sustainable harvest," said Rob Florkiewicz, the wildlife harvest manager with the Yukon government's fish and wildlife branch. 

Hunting opened Jan. 1 in an area along the Top of the World Highway and the Fortymile River in Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in traditional territory. Officials say the herd cannot be hunted from the highway, and that hunters must travel to the backcountry.

The hunt is open until March 31. There are 225 permits available, but they'll be spread out over 10-day intervals, so there are only 20 to 25 active permits at any one time, Florkiewicz said.

"This is one of the interests from the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in, which is that they don't get inundated or swamped if and when a harvest occurs by a whole bunch of hunters," he said. 

'We're comfortable that there's sufficient numbers there to have a sustainable harvest,' said Rob Florkiewicz of Yukon's fish and wildlife branch.  (Dave Croft/CBC)

Hunters are permitted to take only bulls. Environment Yukon urges hunters to use caution, because males lose their antlers in winter and females may have antlers.

Hunters are required to report the results of their hunt, whether they're successful or not, and must turn in the caribou's incisor bar within three days of their permit's expiry. Environment Yukon also hopes some hunters will provide caribou heads so researchers can check for disease. But this isn't mandatory.

Florkiewicz said fish and wildlife officials hope to learn how successful hunters are and where they see caribou.

"We would like to see how the implementation of it goes and [get] feedback from the hunters and the community at large," he said.

Detailed rules for the hunt are available on the Yukon government's website.


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