Hunting

There is no doubt that hunting methods have changed markedly with the introduction of modern hunting technologies.

Rifles, snowmobiles and planes, and aerial surveillance techniques have enabled hunters to more easily find and kill caribou. The exact impact of hunting is unknown, as across most of the north there are no reliable numbers on how many are taken. However, it is clear from both scientific and Indigenous knowledge sources that reducing hunting pressure plays a part in helping herds recover.

When we talk about hunting, for the most part, we are not talking about sport hunting but subsistence hunting. In some areas, sport hunting has been closed completely, such as hunting on the Leaf River herd in Nunavik (northern Quebec), and barren-ground caribou in the Northwest Territories. In Nunavut, the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board is considering limits on sport hunting for particular herds.

In Nunavut, concerns were raised after the caribou population on Baffin Island plummeted. A workshop report from 2013 noted that, “As the human population on Baffin Island increases (approx. 60% of all Nunavummiut), the demand for country food and basic needs level of harvest may be exceeding the sustainable replacement needs of the wild caribou population.” Demand can go far beyond any given region. There are now sales over the Internet, and caribou meat is shipped to a variety of places.  As caribou populations decline, hunting often does not decline at the same rate, and so it can accelerate the decline of caribou herds.

Respect

A lack of respect for caribou is consistently raised as an issue by Indigenous knowledge sources from peoples across northern Canada. The lack of respect is shown by actions that do not follow traditional codes of behaviour in dealing with caribou. That respect can include preparations for the hunt, the way the hunt is managed, the way the meat is shared, the preparation of items made from the caribou, and the disposal of any leftover parts such as bones. The lack of respect is cited by several elders as a factor in the decline of local abundance of caribou.

 One of the caribou management boards has put together some common elements of respectful practice in harvesting caribou:

  • Respecting your neighbour’s traditional hunting lands.
  • Sighting in your rifle and taking careful shots.
  • Shooting bulls instead of cows, when possible, during periods when caribou herds are declining or small.
  • Recovering your kill and all wounded animals.
  • Handling and storing caribou meat and parts carefully.
  • Leaving the land and waters clean and tidy.
  • Making use of ALL parts of caribou. 

 

Related news

Community plans to lead caribou conservation in Sahtú region

This news story is about a decision by the Sahtu Renewable Resources Board (Northwest Territories) to approve a community-led approach to managing caribou. The communities of Colville Lake and Délı̨nę have already developed plans. Once the community plans are fully approved, a "total allowable harvest" quota system administered by the Renewable Resources Board will be lifted, although it can be reimposed if the Board thinks it necessary.
18 November 2020 | CKLB Radio

Hunting restrictions imposed after another Nunavut caribou herd dwindles

This news story talks about hunting restrictions being placed on the Dolphin and Union herd in Nunavut. The unique herd that migrates between the Victoria island and the mainland saw its population drop to about 4,000 in the last (2018) survey. The new quota allows people from local communities to take 42 caribou. Last year, just one community took as many as 200.
12 November 2020 | cbc north

Nunavut premier hears discontent over caribou quotas and meat sales at NTI meeting

News story from a meeting of the Nunavut land claim organization, Nunavut Tunggavik Incorporated. It cover discussions over quotas for caribou herds, and about the sustainability of selling of caribou meat between regions in Nunavut. Nunavut's premier points out that the right to sell or barter wild food is written into the Nunavut claim, so it is not something his government can regulate. 
21 October 2020 | Nunatsiaq news

Nunavut government limits hunting of Dolphin and Union caribou

The Nunavut government has restricted hunting of the Dolphin and Union herd to 42 animals this year, due to steep declines in the herd's size. The herd is classified as endangered by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada.
10 September 2020 | Nunatsiaq News

First Nation raises alarm after Yukon opens caribou hunt without herd management plan

A news story about a disagreement over opening up harvest of the Forty Mile herd (shared between Alaska and Yukon). The Yukon government has opened up a limited hunt of the herd. A local First Nation (Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in) that uses the herd doesn't believe it should be open to hunting until a management plan is in place.
26 August 2020 | Aboriginal Peoples Television Network

Inuit government renews call to respect ban on George River caribou harvest in Atlantic Canada

A 2020 news story about Nunatsiavut (northern Labrador Inuit region) beneficiaries and restrictions on caribou hunting.
28 January 2020 | RCI

Arctic Canada: Nunavut government asks to lower caribou hunt, which could impact local communities

A 2020 news story about the impacts of proposed changes to the total allowable harvest for Bluenose-East and Bathurst caribou herds. The story focuses on the Nunavut community of Kugluktuk.
13 January 2020 | CBC

Nunavut government asks to lower caribou hunt on Bluenose East herd, ban Bathurst harvest

A 2020 news story about the Nunavut government proposal to lower hunting quotas on the Bluenose-East herd, and eliminate the quota for the Bathurst herd. The story talks about community hardships that would result from the quota changes, and potential increased pressure on the Dolphin and Union herd.
13 January 2020 | CBC

First Nation bans Indigenous harvest of declining caribou herd in northern Quebec

The Cree Nation Government has voted in favour of a ban on Cree hunters harvesting caribou from the George River herd, whose numbers have seen a decline of 99 per cent since 2001.
8 January 2020 | Radio Canada International

Parties celebrate caribou management accord

Five Indigenous governments with a cultural connection to the Porcupine caribou have signed off on a new approach to manage the harvest if the herd gets into trouble.
28 August 2019 | Whitehorse Daily Star

Let them pass: PCMB recommends hunters stop harvesting Porcupine caribou during migration

Hunters are being urged to lay off harvesting Porcupine caribou so that the herd can make it to its traditional winter range.
7 August 2019 | Yukon News

Nunavut government appeals decision to halt case against Igloolik hunter

The Government of Nunavut says that the territory’s chief justice “erred” when he let an Igloolik hunter off the hook for illegally harvesting a caribou during the 2015 Baffin Island caribou ban.
30 July 2019 | Nunatsiaq News

Tradition versus technology: Northerners debate use of drones in caribou hunting

New N.W.T. wildlife regulations in effect since July 1 defer decision on drone use
8 July 2019 | CBC

Another Nunavut caribou herd faces decline

A 2016 news story about the Nunavut Government’s concern about Internet-driven sales of caribou meat.
4 March 2016 | Nunatsiaq News

Related resources

Population Estimate of the Dolphin and Union Caribou herd (Rangifer tarandus groenlandicus x pearyi) Coastal Survey, October 2018 and Demographic Indicators

This 49 page (in English) report contains executive summaries in Inuktitut (both syllabics and western orthography). It shows that the Dophin and Union herd has declined to an estimated 4,105 in 2018, down from 17,000 in 2015. The Dophin and Union herd is unique, being neither barren-ground nor Peary caribou. It migrates between Victoria Island and the mainland. 
Government of Nunavut (2020)

Usage: Non-commercial with attribution
Format: pdf

Dolphin and UnionClimate changeHunting

Barren-ground Caribou Survey Results FAQ

A 6-page document on the barren-ground caribou surveys conducted by the Government of the Northwest Territories in 2018.
Government of the Northwest Territories (2018)

Usage: Non-commercial with attribution
Format: pdf

Barren-groundHunting

Innu Nation threatening future of George River caribou

A news release from the Nunatsiavut Government talking about the strained relations with the neighboring Innu over hunting of the George River herd.
Nunatsiavut Government (2018)

Usage: Non-commercial with attribution
Format: pdf

George RiverHunting

The Importance of Respectful Harvest

This 12 minute video is part one of the "You can make a difference" video produced by the Beverly and Qamanirjuaq Caribou Management Board.
Beverly and Qamanirjuaq Caribou Management Board (2017)

Usage: Non-commercial with attribution
Format: video

Beverly and QaminirjuaqManaging huntingPeopleHunting

Cumulative Effects

This 10-minute video is part three of the "You can make a difference" video produced by the Beverly and Qamanirjuaq Caribou Management Board.
Beverly and Qamanirjuaq Caribou Management Board (2017)

Usage: Non-commercial with attribution
Format: video

Beverly and QaminirjuaqManaging huntingHunting

The Importance of Harvest Reporting

This 8-minute video is part two of the "You can make a difference" video produced by the Beverly and Qamanirjuaq Caribou Management Board  
Beverly and Qamanirjuaq Caribou Management Board (2017)

Usage: Non-commercial with attribution
Format: video

Beverly and QaminirjuaqManaging huntingHunting

Caribou Sex Identification Card - Carte postale : Identification du caribou

A poster showing how to tell the difference between male and female caribou.  
Government of the Northwest Territories (2017)

Usage: Non-commercial with attribution
Format: pdf

Hunting

General Approach to Harvest Modeling for Barren-ground Caribou Herds in the NWT and Recommendations on Harvest Based on Risk Status

A 39-page academic paper from 2016 designed to help assess the impact of hunting on barren-ground caribou herds, based on the population size and trend of a given herd.
Government of the Northwest Territories (2016)

Usage: Non-commercial with attribution
Format: pdf

Barren-groundManaging huntingHunting

Sample Sizes of Collared Barren-ground Caribou to Estimate Herd Size in Winter and Fall Management Areas to Allow Assesment of Harvest Risk

A 2016 academic paper that analyzes how many caribou it is necessary to collar to reliably define proportions of each herd in harvest areas in fall and winter. It concludes that at least 20 collars are required per herd.
Government of the Northwest Territories (2016)

Usage: Non-commercial with attribution
Format: pdf

Barren-groundManaging huntingHunting

Technical Report on Cape Bathurst, Bluenose-West and Bluenose-East Caribou Herds

A 90-page 2016 report presenting scientific knowledge and status of the Cape Bathurst, BluenoseWest and Bluenose-East caribou herds and gaps in knowledge.  One of two companion documents to "Taking Care of Caribou: The Cape Bathurst, Bluenose-West and Bluenose-East Caribou Herds Management Plan"
Government of the Northwest Territories (2016)

Engaging Bluenose Caribou Communities

This lengthy 2014 report contain notes from all the community meetings that fed into the management plan for three herds (Bluenose-East and West and Cape Bathurst). It is the result of consultation sessions in 17 communities in the NWT and Nunavut. It contains much Indigneous knowledge about the caribou, but the report cautions that it “...should not be seen as a complete record of the traditional and community knowledge that exists about these caribou.”
Wekʼèezhìi Renewable Resources Board (WRRB) (2014)

Working together for Baffin Island Caribou

A brief 2013 workshop report which examines the causes and impacts of the decline of caribou on Baffin Island, and suggests some management measures.
Government of Nunavut (2013)