Hunting along the Dempster Highway is threatening the small Hart River Caribou herd.
To protect it, the Environment department issued an emergency order prohibiting caribou hunting between Chapman Lake and North Fork Pass on Saturday.
Although First Nations are allowed to hunt in the area, Environment is asking them to voluntarily avoid it.
“And the local First Nations are very concerned about the Hart caribou,” said wildlife management chief Doug Larsen.
This year, the Porcupine caribou herd didn’t move south of the Ogilvie River.
And because the Porcupine caribou share this region with the Hart caribou, hunters may unwittingly be harvesting from the small Hart herd of roughly 2,200 animals.
“When you’ve got 100,000 Porcupine caribou in the area, that’s generally what people are hunting,” said Environment spokesperson Dennis Senger on Monday.
“But at this moment in time, all those Porcupine caribou are north of the Ogilvie River, and in that area there are also the Hart River caribou.”
“So it’s a question of trying to ensure you don’t have a large number of caribou taken from the Hart River herd.”
As a result, the department had to put the closure in for all caribou hunting, he said.
Usually only four or five Hart caribou are harvested by resident hunters every year, said Larsen.
“But this year, we don’t know how many have been harvested.”
Usually people are quite responsible and don’t shoot many of the Hart River herd, said Larsen.
But with the herds mixed together, many people won’t be aware they’re shooting Hart River caribou, he said.
“Hopefully, by prohibiting hunting in this region, we’ve preempted the problem,” he added.
The emergency order will remain in place until August 1st, 2007.
“We don’t know why the Porcupine caribou haven’t moved south,” said Larsen.
“But big herd movements are not very consistent from year to year.”