STONEWALL, Manitoba (November 27, 2008) —The Beverly and Qamanirjuaq Caribou Management Board (BQCMB) is calling for increased protection of the Beverly barren-ground caribou herd after members learned from the Government of the Northwest Territories last week that the herd appears to have decreased significantly in size.
Evidence presented at the BQCMB’s meeting in Winnipeg included the fact that the numbers of adult female caribou (cows) seen on the Beverly calving ground during June systematic reconnaissance surveys dropped from 5,737 in 1994 to 93 in 2008, and that very few calves were seen during the 2008 survey – only 15 calves for every 100 cows. (In comparison, usually about 80 calves for every 100 cows are seen on the calving grounds of healthy barren-ground caribou herds near the peak of calving, as was the case with the Bathurst herd in June 2008.)
The Beverly herd’s range extends from northern Saskatchewan through the Northwest Territories to Nunavut. The herd numbered about 276,000 in 1994, the last time a successful census was carried out. The Government of the Northwest Territories attempted a survey in June 2007 but it was unsuccessful due to weather. A new estimate of the herd’s size is needed. The governments of the Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Saskatchewan and Canada (as land managers) are jointly responsible for the management of this herd. That includes conducting caribou population surveys. The BQCMB had been calling for a census of the Beverly herd since 2000.
The BQCMB has developed a communications plan to inform people about this serious situation and the need to increase conservation measures for both the Beverly and Qamanirjuaq caribou herds. The Board will tackle key issues by collaborating with communities, governments and other BQCMB partners. It’s also urging governments to follow through on management actions for declining herds as outlined in the Beverly and Qamanirjuaq Caribou Management Plan 2005-2012 (see backgrounder below).
What’s more, the BQCMB wants protection for the Beverly herd stepped up in the following ways:
It may never be known why the Beverly herd’s population has decreased. It may be partly due to a natural cycle, and may also be the result of other factors, including impacts from exploration and development, hunter harvest, some interchange between the Beverly and Ahiak herds, changes in habitat (including loss of winter range due to forest fires), parasites and diseases, predation, and the effects of climate change.
BQCMB chairman Albert Thorassie says that while the Board does not want to unduly sound alarms, it’s important for people to be aware of the Beverly herd’s serious situation.
“We have to watch (the Beverly herd) carefully,” says Thorassie. “We've got to get back to the grassroots in teaching our young generation about caribou, and how to protect them. And the only way is just to take what you need.”
Wise hunting practices are not the only means of safeguarding the Beverly herd. Government policies on commercial quotas should be examined and, most importantly, protection should be put in place for the Beverly herd’s calving ground – an area that is a hotbed for mineral exploration.
“We’re not against mining, but it’s important to be careful,” Thorassie cautions. Ultimately all courses of action are based on one principle: “respect, respect, respect” for the caribou.
For more information, contact:
Phone: (204) 467-2438
Environment and Natural Resources, Government of the Northwest Territories
Phone: (867) 873-7379