North Slave leaders collectively condemned the illegal killing of scores of caribou in the last two weeks.

Minister of Environment and Natural Resources (ENR), Shane Thompson, together with Tłı̨chǫ Grand Chief George Mackenzie, Łutsel Kʼe Dene First Nation Chief Darryl Marlowe, and other Indigenous regional leaders, issued a joint statement Friday to reinforce the need for responsible harvesting of caribou in “this time of rapid herd decline.”

The statement indicated wasted meat and parts from 12 more caribou were also discovered outside the zone last weekend.

“Working together, the decision was made to close the harvest of Bathurst caribou and put in place a mobile no-hunting zone to protect the herd,” according to a quote attributed to the abovementioned leaders. “Hunters should not be harvesting in this zone, given the fragile state of the Bathurst herd.”

They warned wasting meat is not just disrespectful, but against the law.

The Bathurst caribou herd has declined by 98 per cent since 1986. Only 8,200 caribou remain. The Mobile Zone was put in place in 2015 to protect the herd. No hunting is allowed inside this zone.

ENR officers seized meat and issued tickets to hunters caught over the weekend. Prior to March 21, there had only been one case of harvesting in the mobile zone this winter, according to the statement.

“Over the weekend, hunters along the winter road were observed travelling and gathering and visiting in groups,” the statement continued. “This behaviour goes against the advice of the Chief Public Health Officer, who supports people going out on the land, but only with their immediate family or people they live with.

It said ENR will continue to actively monitor the Mobile Zone through daily air and ground patrols and enforce the no-hunting rule to protect the Bathurst caribou herd.

“It is up to all of us to ensure we are making good decisions to protect the health and safety of our communities and the future of our caribou,” Thompson said. “There are other animals that can be legally harvested at this time, including moose, muskox, fish, small game and other caribou herds. We encourage people to look at other options, and to harvest other animals respectfully and sustainably.”


Craig Gilbert

Craig is an award-winning journalist who has worked in his home province of Ontario, the Northwest Territories, British Columbia, Alberta and the Northwest Territories again. He should be at least six...

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  1. When I traveled in the NWT in the summer of 2019, I spoke with two indigenous men who told me they had participated in separate community hunts for caribou and both withdrew from the hunts in disgust after other members of their group shot into the herds indiscriminately, wounding many animals.

    Caribou numbers have fallen drastically across the country and it is almost comical how wolves are routinely scapegoated and persecuted while caribou habitat continues be compromised, enforcement of existing laws is lax and other factors are rarely mentioned. Subsistence hunting today is not what it was 100 years ago. Today, hunters have access to an expanding road system, high powered rifles with scopes, snowmobiles, ATV’s, outboard motors, GPS’s, cell phones or walkie talkies and other technologies to facilitate their search for and killing of animals. Is anyone really surprised that all over the north animal populations are falling?
    Where is a comprehensive policy strategy that would take into account all these considerations?