Death of the swamp donkey

Thank goodness for chicken. Without poultry, the territory would be a lot less hospitable place these days.

Thank goodness for chicken.

Without poultry, the territory would be a lot less hospitable place these days.

Once, Yukoners dined on caribou, moose and salmon, shot or caught in their backyards.

But those sources of protein have grown scarce to the point of luxury.

It wasn’t always so.

In the 1980s, hunters reported shooting more than 100 moose in the Southern Lakes region.

Today, only 11 tags are issued in the region. Environment reports that about one or two hunters a season are successful.

It’s possible more moose are being shot in the area by aboriginal hunters, but data on that hunt is not available.

So what’s happening? Why is the moose population in the vicinity of Whitehorse moving towards extirpation?

In the 1960s, ‘70s and into the ‘80s, hunters drove the local highways, shooting game from the windows of their trucks.

But that got progressively harder, was eventually deemed dangerous and banned.

Fortunately, the ATV came along.

As Yukon incomes rose, the vehicles got less expensive and more ubiquitous.

Now, back-country hunting has become effortless.

Rather than hiking into the bush over a couple of days, people can zoom 40 kilometres to once-remote moose pastures in a single morning.

It’s easy.

That’s been great for hunters, both native and nonnative, but it has hammered the moose.

These days, drive to Carcross, or towards Skagway, and you’ll count yourself lucky to see a moose.

Same for Teslin.

Environment officials and First Nation governments have voluntarily restricted hunting of the Southern Lakes caribou herd, which has increased in size to 1,300 animals from 300.

But, with the focus on caribou, the swamp donkey population has declined to dangerously low numbers.

In 2002, it was estimated to be 800, down from 1,800 five years before.

That’s a 44 per cent drop.

A Southern Lakes wildlife committee needs to examine the issue, but with more than nine members from aboriginal, territorial, provincial and federal governments, planning a meeting on the issue is slow going.

And so, six years after the issue was identified by Environment officials, nothing has happened.

Officials can’t specify, exactly, what the current population is. But odds are it’s less than 800.

Maybe the multi-government committee can schedule a meeting.

Perhaps aboriginal hunters will voluntarily stop hunting the animals.

But today, that might not be enough.

It’s probably going to be accompanied by a wolf kill, or sterilization program — expensive and morally dubious, but that’s often the cost of human mismanagement of its wildlife populations.

Even with these measures, it could take 20 years before the Southern Lakes moose population increased to a healthier 2,000.

Which is why Yukon is lucky to have chicken.

Just Posted

The Yukon has confirmed 33 active COVID-19 cases on June 15. (file photo)
A new study has discovered beaver castoreum on a 6,000-year-old Yukon atlatl-throwing dart. Photo courtesy of Yukon Government.
Beaver casotreum residue found on 6,000-year-old atlatl throwing dart

The discovery of beaver castoreum on a throwing dart could be the first instance where its use has been identified in an ancient archaeological context

The Yukon’s current outbreak of COVID-19 is driven by close contact between people at gatherings, such as graduation parties. (Black Press file)
Yukon logs 21 active cases as COVID-19 spreads through graduation parties

Anyone who attended a graduation party is being asked to monitor themselves for symptoms.

Yukon RCMP and other emergency responders were on the scene of a collision at Robert Service Way and the Alaska Highway on June 12. (Black Press file)
June 12 collision sends several to hospital

The intersection at Robert Service Way and the Alaska Highway was closed… Continue reading

The sun sets over Iqaluit on Oct. 26, 2020. Nunavut’s chief public health officer says two COVID-19 cases at Iqaluit’s middle school came from household transmission and the risk to other students is low. (Emma Tranter/Canadian Press)
Iqaluit school’s contacts and classmates cleared after two COVID-19 cases

With an outbreak ongoing in Iqaluit, the Aqsarniit middle school has split students into two groups

An extended range impact weapon is a “less lethal” option that fires sponge or silicon-tipped rounds, according to RCMP. (File photo)
Whitehorse RCMP under investigation for use of “less lethal” projectile weapon during arrest

Police used the weapon to subdue a hatchet-wielding woman on June 4

Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press
Citizenship Minister Marco Mendicino holds a press conference in Ottawa on Nov. 12, 2020. The federal government is announcing that Indigenous people can now apply to reclaim their names on passports and other government documents.
Indigenous people can now reclaim traditional names on their passports and other ID

The move comes in response to a call to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 2015

Teslin Lake is one of two bodies of water the Yukon Government has place on flood watch. (Google Maps Image)
Flood watch issued for Teslin Lake, Yukon River at Carmacks

The bodies of water may soon burst their banks due to melting snow and rainfall

Kluane Adamek, AFN Yukon’s regional chief, has signalled a postponement to a graduation ceremony scheduled for today due to COVID-19. She is seen here in her Whitehorse office on March 17. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
AFN Yukon’s post-secondary grad celebration postponed

The event scheduled for June 14 will be rescheduled when deemed safe

(Alexandra Newbould/Canadian Press)
In this artist’s sketch, Nathaniel Veltman makes a video court appearance in London, Ont., on June 10, as Justice of the Peace Robert Seneshen (top left) and lawyer Alayna Jay look on.
Terror charges laid against man accused in London attack against Muslim family

Liam Casey Canadian Press A vehicle attack against a Muslim family in… Continue reading

Dr. Michael Patterson, Nunavut’s chief public health officer, poses for a portrait in the boardroom outside his office in Iqaluit, Nunavut, on Sept. 30, 2020. (Emma Tranter/Canadian Press)
Two cases of COVID-19 at Iqaluit school, 9 active in Nunavut

Nunavut’s chief public health officer says two COVID-19 cases at Iqaluit’s middle… Continue reading

The Village of Carmacks has received federal funding for an updated asset management plan. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Federal funding coming to Carmacks

The program is aimed at helping municipalities improve planning and decision-making around infrastructure

Most Read