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Wildlife

NWT opens another illegal caribou harvest investigation


The NWT government says a fresh illegal caribou harvesting investigation has been opened, less than a week after a controversial raid at a cultural camp.

Announcing the latest investigation on Facebook on Sunday, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources made no link between the newest incident and the earlier camp search.

The new investigation involves the carcasses of eight caribou found within a no-hunting area dubbed a “mobile zone” (as it moves over time) 360 km northeast of Yellowknife on Friday, the GNWT said, in the vicinity of Aylmer Lake.

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“Significant suspected wastage – including a nearly intact full caribou – was present,” the department stated.

“This incident is being investigated for both alleged illegal harvest within the mobile zone and the suspected wastage of caribou meat, which are offences under the Wildlife Act.”

The earlier investigation, into 10 carcasses found in another section of the mobile zone, led wildlife officers to search a Łútsël K’é Dene First Nation cultural camp at Artillery Lake.

The First Nation reacted with outrage to what it said was the aggressive and over-the-top manner of the search, while the NWT’s environment minister defended officers’ right to uphold measures designed to protect the Bathurst herd’s few remaining caribou.

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By Saturday, the First Nation remained sufficiently angered by the search that the contact details of visiting delegates from New Zealand – who attended the camp as part of a cultural exchange – were circulated to NWT newsrooms as witnesses to what had taken place.

Those delegates told the CBC they felt the search had been an “overreaction.”

A Māori researcher who attended the camp told the broadcaster: “I was just shocked … how certain approaches are still continuing in that manner.”

The NWT government has said its investigations into illegal harvesting can take time. A timeline by which charges might be filed, if any eventually materialize, is not clear.

The First Nation has said it will contest any charges on the grounds that officers had no legal basis for such a broad search of the camp.

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