The GNWT is stepping up enforcement and is working with Indigenous governments to combat illegal caribou harvesting.
Minister for Environment and Natural Resources Shane Thompson says the GNWT is currently investigating the illegal harvest of over 50 caribou this winter. He adds that the number has skyrocketed from less than 10 instances this time last year.
“We are seriously looking into reports of illegal meat sales, online and in communities,” he said. “We are asking people to follow the rules and laying charges against those who don’t.”
Beverly and Qamanirjuaq Caribou Management Board Chair Earl Evans says it’s the worst he has seen in his 50 years of hunting and trapping.
Evans says warmer weather and the decline in elders hunting, replaced by younger people, could be leading to the increase in illegal harvesting.
He says enforcement officers on the land are overworked, as they try to keep up with some hunters breaking the rules.
“They were very tired, they’ve been going steady all week long, and the country is so huge for the two officers to patrol,” he said. “There’s so many hunters out there that they can really cover the whole, the whole country.”
Evans went out on the land with Thomson and saw first-hand hunters killing caribou and then not harvesting them.
“There’s a lot of good hunters out there, and they’re getting painted with the same brush and they’re not the people that are concerning,” he said. “It’s the people that are doing the wastage, chasing and harassing these animals that we have to deal with somehow. Somehow, we got to get a message across to these people that we need responsible hunters out there.”
Evans says communities will feel the biggest impact when it comes to the declining herd numbers. Many depend on the income from the caribou harvest.
Enforcement officers have added an extra camp on the winter road to the diamond mines to the northeast of Yellowknife, and are increasing patrols.