In a joint statement released Friday April 3rd, The Government of NWT’s (GNWT) Minister of Environment and Natural Resources (ENR) together with Tłı̨chǫ Grand Chief George Mackenzie, Łutsel Kʼe Dene First Nation Chief Darryl Marlowe, and other Indigenous regional leaders are strongly urging NWT residents on the need for responsible harvesting of caribou in this time of rapid herd decline.
The release says ENR officers determined that more than 80 caribou were killed illegally within the Mobile Core Bathurst Caribou Management Zone over the past two weeks. Wasted meat and parts from 12 more caribou were also discovered outside the zone last weekend.
The Bathurst caribou herd has declined by 98 per cent since 1986. Only 8,200 caribou remain. The Mobile Zone was put in place in 2015 to protect the herd. No hunting is allowed inside this zone.
ENR officers seized meat and issued tickets to hunters caught over the weekend. Prior to March 21, there had only been one case of harvesting in the mobile zone this winter.
Shane Thompson says “It is disappointing to see animals being wasted in this way. This behaviour is not only disrespectful—it is illegal.”
According to the statement hunters along the winter road were observed travelling and gathering and visiting in groups. ENR deemed this behaviour as going against the advice of the Chief Public Health Officer, who supports people going out on the land, but only with their immediate family or people they live with.
Indigenous leaders across the territory also denounced these actions expressing their concern about the health and safety of hunters in the region.
In response to these reports and in line with previous Public Health instructions that people across the Northwest Territories are to practice social distancing and avoid close contact to prevent the spread of COVID-19; Minister Thompson said,
“We understand this is a difficult and uncertain time for everyone,” said Minister Thompson. “It is up to all of us to ensure we are making good decisions to protect the health and safety of our communities and the future of our caribou. There are other animals that can be legally harvested at this time, including moose, muskox, fish, small game and other caribou herds. We encourage people to look at other options, and to harvest other animals respectfully and sustainably.”