Limited Resident Barren-Ground Caribou and Bison Harvest Approved

Dec 9 2013

YELLOWKNIFE (December 9, 2013) – A limited resident harvest has been approved for the Beverly and Ahiak barren-ground caribou herds and the Slave River Lowlands bison herd in the Northwest Territories.

“Resident hunters will be able to harvest one bull from the Beverly and Ahiak herds during the 2013-2014 hunting season as well as one bison from the Slave River Lowlands bison herd,” said J. Michael Miltenberger, Minister of Environment and Natural Resources. “Based on the results of the 2013 calving-ground population survey, resident harvest of the Bluenose-East herd will remain closed.”

The Bluenose-East herd survey indicated a decline in the number of breeding females since the last survey in 2010. The current estimate of breeding females in this herd is about 34,500. The 2010 estimate of breeding females was about 51,800.

The estimated size of the herd based on the 2013 calving ground survey was about 68,000 animals. The estimated size of the herd in 2010, based on a June calving-ground and a July post-calving survey, was just over 100,000. A post-calving survey was attempted for this herd in 2012 but was unsuccessful due to poor weather.

“While I understand resident hunters had hoped to be able to harvest from this herd, it will not be possible at this time for conservation reasons,” said Miltenberger. “Aboriginal subsistence harvesters are being encouraged to harvest bulls only and to take only what they need to help the recovery of the breeding females.”

Resident hunters will be able to purchase one tag to harvest a bison from the hybrid/plains bison population in the Slave River Lowlands Wildlife Management Unit U. This population is considered stable with an estimated 1,700 bison in 2009. Harvesters are reminded it is not a disease-free herd and some animals are infected with bovine tuberculosis and brucellosis. Fact sheets about the safe preparation and cooking of wild game are available from regional and local ENR offices.

All harvesting of bison in the Mackenzie wood bison range remains closed for the 2013-14 hunting season. This conservation measure follows the large losses of animals to anthrax in 2012 and responds to recommendations made by the Mackenzie Bison Working Group and the Wekʼèezhìi Renewable Resources Board.

Current management actions for the Bathurst caribou herd remain in effect for the 2013-2014 hunting season due the continuing low numbers of the herd. A joint proposal is being developed collaboratively with the Tłı̨chǫ Government on management actions for the herd for 2012-2016 and beyond.

New population surveys for the Bluenose-East and Bathurst herds will be done in 2015.

These management actions support an environment that will sustain present and future generations, a priority of the 17th Legislative Assembly.

 

For more information, contact:

 

Judy McLinton
Manager, Public Affairs and Communications
Environment and Natural Resources
Government of the Northwest Territories
Tel: 867-8737379
Email: judy_mclinton@gov.nt.ca

 

Backgrounder

2013 Bluenose-East Caribou Herd Population Estimate

  • A calving-ground survey was carried out between May 31 – June 8, 2013 and field conditions were good, resulting in a survey with good precision.
  • Initial transect lines were flown at 10km intervals to map the distribution of caribou including breeding females on the calving ground and to assess timing of calving.
  • Similar to the June 2010 survey, the main calving area showed higher densities of calving cows extending between 30 and 125 km west of Kugluktuk in Nunavut.
  • For the systematic reconnaissance survey, the core calving area was stratified and 38 tightly spaced lines were designed for the photographic survey.
  • Areas of lower density of caribou adjacent to the core calving area were also flown and surveyed by small fixed-wing aircraft on June 5 and 6.
  • A composition survey was conducted from June 5-7 throughout the entire calving area to determine the proportion of breeding females.
  • Results of the Bluenose-East herd survey indicate a decline in the number of breeding females since the last survey in 2010. The current estimate for the breeding females in this herd is about 34,500 cows, plus or minus 1,900 animals. The 2010 estimate of breeding females was 51,800 plus or minus 4,800.
  • Estimated size of the herd based on the 2013 calving ground survey was about 68,300 animals, plus or minus 7,600.
  • Estimated size of the herd in 2010, based on a June calving ground and a July post-calving survey ranged from 102,700, plus or minus 20,400 animals, to 122,700, plus or minus 16,200.
  • A post-calving survey was attempted for this herd in 2012 but was unsuccessful due to poor weather.
  • Breeding females are the single most important part of the herd, and a declining trend in their number is a concern for the long-term stability of the herd.
  • The number of breeding cows has dropped by about 16,000 animals since 2010.
  • A fall composition survey conducted in October of 2013 indicates the sex ratio in the herd was similar to 2009 (44 bulls:100 cows).
  • Late-winter recruitment surveys conducted in March indicate that the calf:cow ratios were normal in 2010 and 2011 and low in 2012.
  • Preliminary survival analyses of collared cows and the herd’s overall demographics suggest that the survival rates of Bluenose-East is 10-15% lower than required for a stable herd.
  • Higher mortality of cows is likely the combined effect of natural causes and harvesting.
  • Caribou harvest reporting by community monitors and wildlife officers suggests that the harvest sex ratio since 2010 was about 65% cows and 35% bulls for the Bluenose-East caribou herd.
  • Wounding losses and wastage probably contribute to high cow mortality rates.
  • Since implementation of harvest restrictions on the Bathurst herd in 2010, the Bluenose-East caribou herd has become the main herd of barren-ground caribou harvested by aboriginal hunters in the Tłı̨chǫ communities and Deline, with some harvest from Kugluktuk in Nunavut.