Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut October 27, 2016 - 7:00 am

Baffin caribou harvest increasing, Nunavut minister says

Hunters harvested 107 caribou between July 1 and Oct. 14

STEVE DUCHARME
This map shows the results of Baffin caribou population surveys done in 2014. (FILE IMAGE)
This map shows the results of Baffin caribou population surveys done in 2014. (FILE IMAGE)

Baffin Island’s meagre caribou harvest has shown signs of improvement over figures reported from the same time last year, but it’s unlikely that the current quota will be raised any time soon, Environment Minister Joe Savikataaq said Oct. 24 in the legislative assembly.

Savikataaq said 107 caribou were harvested on Baffin Island between July 1 and Oct. 14.

That’s 50 more caribou than the same period in 2015, he said.

But when pressed by Uqqummiut MLA Pauloosie Keyootak who asked if the quota would be raised this year, Savikataaq said the caribou season would end on Baffin Island if hunters harvest 250 animals before June 30.

“Baffin Island has 250 tags. If the hunters harvest 250 caribou, then the season would end in the Baffin region with the new quota set to renew July 1 of the next summer,” Savikataaq said.

According to recent statistics cited by the World Wildlife Fund, the caribou population on Baffin Island has declined by 98 per cent from the 235,000 animals surveyed in 1991.

Now, fewer than 5,000 caribou are spread across the fifth largest island on the planet.

The Government of Nunavut imposed an eight-month moratorium on hunting Baffin caribou in 2014, followed by the current quota of 250.

But for this winter, hunters will have to make do with 143 bull tags for the entire Baffin region.

Female caribou are off limits, but Savikataaq told MLAs that some harvesting of cows occurred and that conservation officers are investigating.

An Igloolik man, Michael Irngaut, currently faces two charges under the Wildlife Act for harvesting a Baffin caribou in February 2015.

The former environment minister, Johnny Mike, rose to tell the assembly that hunters in his constituency of Pangnirtung had lost many traditional caribou hunting sites due to the lack of animals migrating to the coast in winter.

“Nowadays, the caribou rarely pass to the coast, so not many hunters practice this caribou coastal migration hunt anymore,” Mike said.

“Although they may occasionally be used, most traditional sites are no longer used due to the low numbers of caribou we face.”

Mike added that future generations risk losing valuable local tradition and history if the caribou numbers continue to be so small.

“This practice will remain in our [generation’s] mental knowledge banks and older generations will fondly recall their old coastal caribou hunting practices in the fall, just prior to or at the seasonal rut,” he said.

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