Management plan on the way for western Nunavut caribou
Dolphin and Union caribou herd’s numbers fall by roughly 50 per cent in 20 years.
A management plan is in the works for the Dolphin and Union caribou herd, known in Inuinnaqtun as the Kiilinirmi Tuktuutait, whose range covers areas in western Nunavut and the Northwest Territories.
Surveys show that in 1997 there were 27,948 animals in the Dolphin and Union herd, but, by 2007, these numbers had dropped to 21,753. A draft estimate from 2015 shows only 14,730 in the herd.
The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife first designated the Dolphin and Union caribou of “special concern” in 2004 — and in 2015 the NWT government listed it as a “species of risk.”
Now, by March 2017, Environment and Climate Change Canada wants to see a management plan in place for the Dolphin and Union herd, which the governments of the NWT and Nunavut will approve through their relevant wildlife management boards.
That’s according to a document presented last week in Cambridge Bay to the mayors of western Nunavut’s Kitikmeot region.
The Dolphin and Union caribou, which have short noses and short wide hooves, migrate between Victoria Island and the mainland areas of the NWT and Nunavut.
Sea ice is an important part of their habitat, as they migrate from winter grounds on the mainland to calving grounds on Victoria island.
Among the threats to the Dolphin and Union caribou: year-round marine traffic — which could prevent migration and increase the risk of drowning — predation by wolves, overhead flights for mining exploration, vegetation change and an increase in parasites and insects due to climate change.
Currently, there is no mandatory harvest reporting.
The management plan under consideration calls for more research, communication, and, if the caribou herd’s numbers continue a downward trend, actions could include a ban on commercial hunts, a non-quota limitation of hunting only bulls and possible restrictions on industry activities that affect caribou.
GN wildlife biologists recently collared 20 more caribou from the Dolphin and Union caribou herd with satellite devices to show more about their migration, calving, post-calving and survival rates.
Cambridge Bay’s Ekaluktutiak hunters and trappers had recommended in 2014 that only 25 caribou from the Dolphin and Union herd be collared — the Government of Nunavut originally wanted to collar 50 female caribou.
The collars, light devices equipped with radio transmitters, show where the caribou go. If the collars cease to send signals, this provides information about whether the animals have drowned while crossing the ice or died on the land through predation or hunting.
To adopt the management plan for the Dolphin and Union caribou herd, the GN will seek approval from Nunavut Wildlife Management Board.