This year, only subsistence hunters can kill Porcupine caribou in the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation’s traditional territory.
And they’re only allowed to take bulls.
The First Nation banned shooting cows and implemented other conservation measures after learning the herd’s population had decreased to somewhere between 78,000 and 110,000 from 123,000 animals in 2001.
“That’s 30,000 caribou we’re talking about here,” said Vuntut Gwitchin chief Joe Linklater.
“That’s a pretty big number, and both numbers are low,” said Linklater on Wednesday, a week after getting the data from the Porcupine caribou management board.
“We want to stop everything, put the brakes on.
“The only hunting that’s going on is on the Dempster (Highway), so that policy is for the Dempster until we can work with the Yukon territorial government and other user communities so that we can agree on a number and say, ‘This is the number we’re working from,’ and develop a more accurate harvest policy.”
The management board cross-references data from Alaska with its own estimates.
Due to cloudy conditions and sparse clusters among the caribou when they were being photographed from the air in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the Alaskan numbers included a number of calves, said Linklater.
Calves are not normally part of the count, he said.
“They took the pictures anyway, and used those numbers along with various other indicators on the winter range, and came up with that 110,000 estimate.”
Both ballpark estimates are low.
But if the herd is down to 78,000 animals, it is smaller than it has ever been in recorded history, said Linklater.
As a result, the Vuntut Gwitchin implemented the ban, except for subsistence purposes, within its traditional territory, which extends from the Alaska border to the Northwest Territories border and the Dempster Highway.
A 500-metre no-hunt corridor has been applied to all roadways within the First Nation’s settlement land, including the Dempster and roads around Old Crow.
The Vuntut Gwitchin typically receive about 20 written requests each year from non-resident hunters seeking access to caribou within its traditional territory.
This year, all requests will be denied, said Linklater.
“In order for us to draft legislation for our settlement land we have to consult with the territorial government,” he said.
“That would take too long. By the time it’s done, hunting season will be over.
“The only thing we can do at this time is put in place a policy so that anybody who is thinking of asking for permission to hunt on our traditional territory knows that the staff will have not choice but to reject that request, as policy.
“At this point, all we can do is ask for the public’s and our own citizens’ co-operation in this matter, and not to hunt.”
Loot found in High Country room
Thursday morning, RCMP investigating property damage in one of the High Country Inn’s guest rooms discovered a bag containing what it believed to be stolen goods.
The previous evening, an man using a false name paid for a hotel room with cash.
After the guest room was damaged, staff evicted its occupant(s).
Police are still investigating to determine the number of people involved in the incident, said Cpl. Leanne Lind on Wednesday.
The suspect who paid for the room is described as an older First Nations man with greying hair.
The stolen goods recovered include: 45 gold, silver and ivory rings, 15 gold and silver necklaces, three gold and silver bracelets, eight pairs of earrings, five watches, 10 gold and silver coins, three cellphones and a GPS.
Anyone who recently had property stolen is asked to contact the Whitehorse RCMP. (GK)