Due in part to the declines amongst most Arctic caribou populations, and in part because many of the caribou are located closest to primarily Indigenous communities, there is a limited amount of hunting by non-Indigenous people.
Non-Indigenous people resident within some areas can still hunt a limited number of caribou. Some hunting is sport hunting, where hunters from outside the region pay outfitters to take them on a hunt. Today, this accounts for a relatively small number of kills where it is permitted. For many herds, there is no sport hunting allowed.
Indigenous peoples have harvest rights, but recognizing the dire situation of some of the herds some Indigenous governments and organizations have put in place both voluntary and enforced harvest restrictions. For instance, in 2015 the Wek'èezhìı Renewable Resources Board (WRRB) in the Northwest Territories placed a moratorium on hunting the Bathurst Caribou Herd. This is enforced through the Mobile Core Bathurst Caribou Management Zone. In Nunavik (Northern Quebec) local leadership has put in place a prohibition on harvesting female caribou during the calving period. Where hunting does take place, estimating the size of the Indigenous subsistence harvest is an ongoing problem for managers, as reporting is voluntary. Despite efforts being undertaken by management boards, harvest information is still patchy.Hunting regulations for caribou populations tend to follow a pattern that recognizes the importance of caribou to Indigenous peoples, and their rights to hunt as defined in land claim agreements and legal judgements. For instance, the Beverly and Qaminirjuaq Caribou Management Board has priority of use categories that it follows when making harvest recommendations for the herds:
- traditional users - for domestic use
- resident users - for domestic use
- traditional or resident users - when guiding non-resident hunters
- local use - for commercial purposes
- export use - for commercial purposes
Regulations about how and when to hunt caribou can sometimes conflict with Indigenous codes of conduct. For instance, many Indigenous peoples who hunt caribou believe that the animal hunted gives itself to the hunter. To not accept the gift would be disrespectful and could lead to difficulties with later hunts. Regulations that encourage the hunting of bulls over cows may also conflict with Indigenous knowledge. Science suggests that a reduction in the number of cows harvested from a herd can help the population increase through increased birth rates. Regulations that prohibit targeting cows at certain times of year put hunters following traditional codes in a dilemma. Some elders say that it is not a good idea to harvest mature bulls, as they are the leaders in the herd, and that removing larger bulls will weaken the strength of the herd.
Honouring the ways of our ancestors, the Cree and Innu Nations sign a traditional understanding built from the customary values of sharing, sustainable harvest and respect for the caribou
“We’re Made Criminals Just to Eat off the Land”: Colonial Wildlife Management and Repercussions on Inuit Well-Being
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COSEWIC Assessment and Status Report on the Caribou (Rangifer tarandus), Barren-ground population in Canada - 2016
Sample Sizes of Collared Barren-ground Caribou to Estimate Herd Size in Winter and Fall Management Areas to Allow Assesment of Harvest Risk
General Approach to Harvest Modeling for Barren-ground Caribou Herds in the NWT and Recommendations on Harvest Based on Risk Status
We have been Living with the Caribou all our Lives: a report on information recorded during community meetings
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