The Olokhaktomuit Hunters and Trappers Committee (OHTC) in Ulukhaktok is asking members not to hunt caribou from the Dolphin and Union herd from April 15 to July 15.
On a poster shared to Facebook, the committee writes: “This is a community decision to allow the caribou to migrate and calve on the island before harvesting begins.”
The OHTC said members in Ulukhaktok are “extremely concerned” about the herd’s numbers and asked the community to help “conserve caribou for future generations.”
According to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (ENR), the Dolphin and Union caribou are currently listed as a species of “special concern” under both the territorial and federal species at risk acts. Meanwhile, the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (Cosewic) has classified the herd as endangered.
The herd’s numbers have fluctuated over the past century. The most recent numbers show the herd had about 4,000 caribou in 2018, down from 30,000 in 1997.
“Mortality of Dolphin and Union caribou due to drowning (breaking through sea ice), as well as predation and hunting, is relatively high,” reads ENR’s website. The caribou cross the sea ice between Victoria Island and mainland NWT and Nunavut twice yearly.
Cosewic reports the impact on sea ice from climate change, and from ice-breakers brought in to aid commercial shipping, has been linked to the herd’s declining numbers.