The department that isn’t

The Yukon government will permit a limited deer hunt this year. Hunters can bag 10 adult males, either white-tailed or mule deer.

The Yukon government will permit a limited deer hunt this year.

Hunters can bag 10 adult males, either white-tailed or mule deer.

That’s not many critters. In fact, it is so conservative that it probably won’t impact Yukon populations at all.

Nevertheless, the cavalier hunt-approval process is worrisome.

It shows how weak the Environment department has become.

Nobody knows how many deer there are in the Yukon. The animals haven’t been counted.

What we do know is that, until very recently, the Yukon Wildlife Act identified mule deer as a species at risk.

That is, there weren’t thought to be many of ‘em.

The animals have migrated north, probably pushed (or pulled) by global warming, predators, human settlement, expanding transportation corridors and other factors.

And, these days, people are seeing more of the animals.

Their range has expanded from the Yukon’s southern border to Dawson City.

Aboriginal hunters have been allowed to hunt Yukon deer, but it isn’t known how many have done so. Again, the government doesn’t have any data.

Nevertheless, the Yukon Wildlife Act regulations have been rewritten to reclassify deer as big game animals, eliminating their “at risk” tag.

Why?

Because it’s believed there are lots of them. The proof? Nothing more than hearsay.

But, immediately, Environment officials have permitted a limited hunt.

It’s all been done surprisingly quickly and efficiently for a government known to act, on most matters, very slowly.

And it has been done with a troubling lack of concrete information to back up the decision.

The motive behind the hunt is also suspicious.

The government “wants to reduce the numbers as much as we can,” said Environment minister Dennis Fentie, adding the hunt is a management tool.

A management tool?

Officials don’t even know how many deer there are.

Yukon’s Environment department lacks the resources, and apparently the will, to do proper baseline-management studies. Instead, its mandate is simply to supply hunters with targets.

It’s willing to exploit the territory’s resources, even before it knows what those resources are.

And that’s not an Environment department. That’s simply a permit-issuing game branch. (RM)

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