Summary

 

The Bathurst Caribou Management Plan (BCMP) provides a framework for the long-term conservation of the Bathurst caribou herd and the land that the herd uses.  This plan is about cooperation, healthy caribou and healthy caribou numbers, protecting caribou habitat and managing harvesting.

 

The BCMP recommends a series of monitoring and management actions that should take place at all time and others are added or removed as required. Assessing health and condition of caribou on an annual basis through joint community and scientific collections has been determined to be important at all time regardless of the status of the herd.

 

Environment and Natural Resources (ENR) biologists have adopted the Level 3 CARMA sampling protocol (most detailed one) for the first three years of the project.  ENR's intention is to continue this monitoring action on a permanent basis or at least through an entire population cycle.  Although costly to sustain twice a year (fall and spring), ENR biologists believe that assessing condition of the caribou both at the end of the summer and prior to the spring migration will yield a better understanding of overall herd demographics.  In order to minimize cost on the long run, it is expected that the sampling protocol will be scaled back to the CARMA Level 1 (less detailed) beginning in the fourth year (2010).

 

The original sample size suggested by ENR biologists for each collection was for 20 bulls, 20 cows and 20 calves.  This target has not been easy to achieve however as the success of each collection depends on movement and distribution of caribou and the cost associated to logistics.  

 

Fall collections depend heavily on aerial support which increased the overall operational cost significantly.  Planes have to be charted every 2 days in order to bring samples and meat back to Yellowknife.  Typically, this work takes place over a period of 6-8 days so the number of planes and flights required is substantial and a factor to take into account when planning this project.

 

The spring collection (also called the late winter collection) on the other hand is more economically feasible as access to hunting ground is usually accomplished travelling on the winter roads by trucks and/or snow machines. 

 

For both the fall and spring collection, hunting area is determined by first looking at distribution of satellite collared Bathurst caribou females followed by a reconnaissance survey to locate the main concentrations of animals.  

 

Results

 

The first collection took place early September of 2007 at Mackay Lake in the Northwest Territories in a collaborative effort between ENR biologists and the Yellowknives Dene First Nation.

 

The weather was excellent throughout the duration of the work and a total of 17 bulls, 17 cows and 12 calves were harvested and sampled. 

 

The first spring collection was conducted near Beaverlodge Lake North of Gameti between March 10 and 15, 2008 and hunters and biologists travelled from Gameti by snow machine.  Wall tents and at 2 cabins near the hunting location provided shelter and accommodation for all.

 

Hunters harvested 26 cows, 9 calves and a few yearlings.  All females were pregnant and overall conditions of the caribou were good.

 

Male caribou were not harvested during this trip as they were located in different part of the winter range. 

 

The 2008 fall collection was conducted just south of de Lac De Gras Winter road camp where the biologists and caribou hunters stayed.  The work took place between September 8-12, and a total of 13 bulls, 12 cows and 6 calves were harvested.

 

Because very few animals went through the hunting area and combined with bad weather, it was not possible to get the intended sample size.

 

Monitoring the health and condition of Bathurst caribou requires a lot of work and depends entirely on the dedication of our aboriginal hunters, elders and ENR biologists and veterinarians. 

 

Applications

 

The purpose of these collections is to assess the level of potential harmful diseases, parasites, contaminants, and overall health and condition of the Bathurst caribou.  This is done in cooperation with aboriginal hunters so the meat is shared within the community.  This approach also provides an opportunity to learn from each other's knowledge in order to better monitor Bathurst caribou.

 

Contacts

 

Bruno Croft
Bathurst Caribou Biologist
North Slave Region
Environment and Natural Resources
GNWT, P.O. Box 2668
Yellowknife, NT, X1A 2P9
bruno_croft 'at' gov.nt.ca
www.nwtwildlife.com
867-920-6265 (work)

 

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