Wild caribou roam the tundra near the Meadowbank Gold Mine in Nunavut. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette)

Tradition vs. tech: Northerners debate use of drones to hunt caribou

NWT government says drones have been used to find caribou and sometimes to herd them to a hunter

Tradition and technology are clashing on the tundra where Indigenous groups are debating the use of drones to hunt caribou.

The issue arose during public consultations on new wildlife regulations in the Northwest Territories, where First Nations and Metis depend on caribou for food.

Drones are not widely used to hunt, but the N.W.T. government says they have been utilized to find caribou and sometimes to herd them to a hunter. That’s caused fears of increased pressure on populations that are already struggling.

The Bathurst herd, nearly half a million strong in the 1980s, has dwindled to 8,500. The Bluenose-East herd has declined almost 50 per cent in the last three years to about 19,000 animals.

“We heard significant concern about the use of drones for hunting and broad support for a ban on their use,” Joslyn Oosenbrug, an Environment Department spokeswoman, said in an email.

“A ban on drones will help address conservation concerns for some species and help prevent new conservation concerns for others.”

The territory has proposed banning drones for hunting except for Indigenous harvesters.

Some Indigenous groups argue the ban should go further. The board that co-manages wildlife between Great Slave and Great Bear lakes wants a ban on drones to apply universally.

“The Wek’èezhìi Renewable Resources Board would prefer that drones not be used for harvesting purposes,” said board biologist Aimee Guile in an email.

The Northwest Territory Metis Nation also wants to see drones banned for everyone.

READ MORE: A look back on hunting and wildlife management in B.C.’s East Kootenay

Others argue that banning drones for Aboriginals would violate treaty rights.

An N.W.T. report into consultations on the proposed ban says both the Inuvialuit Game Council and the Wildlife Management Advisory Council stated that rights holders should be exempt from the proposed ban, “because of the potential infringement to Aboriginal harvesters exercising their rights.”

The Tli Cho government, which has jurisdiction in communities west of Great Slave Lake, also wants Indigenous harvesters exempted.

“It’s a matter of leaving it with us,” said spokesman Michael Birlea. “We want to be able to make our own decisions rather than somebody else.”

Tli Cho residents are uneasy with the technology.

“(Tli Cho leaders) also acknowledged the discomfort heard from many of their citizens,” the consultation report said. “Many citizens expressed that all harvesters should be prohibited from using drones.”

Summarizing what the government heard during consultations, Oosenbrug said: “Using drones is bad because it is another loss of the Indigenous culture of NWT people as it does not represent a traditional way of hunting.

“(It) shows a lack of respect for Indigenous culture and the wildlife, and it should be considered cheating.”

COLUMN: Condemning caribou to extinction in B.C.

The N.W.T.’s new wildlife regulations came into effect July 1, but the territory chose to defer a decision on drones until there are further talks.

More discussion is planned for the fall, said Oosenbrug.

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Pacific Coastal won’t open until community is ready

The company has suspended operations until further notice

A second wave of COVID-19 is probable, if history tells us anything

B.C.’s top doctor says that what health officials have learned this round will guide response in future

Celebrations continue for Tsilhqot’in Nation after court victory against Taskeo Mines Ltd.

Supreme Court of Canada upholds 2014 decision rejecting New Prosperity mine on May 14, 2020

B.C. legislature coming back June 22 as COVID-19 emergency hits record

Pandemic restrictions now longer than 2017 wildfire emergency

B.C.’s essential grocery, hardware store employees should get pandemic pay: retail group

Only B.C.’s social, health and corrections workers are eligible for top-ups

Edmonton, Vancouver and Toronto vying to be NHL hubs, but there’s a catch

The NHL unveiled a return-to-play plan that would feature 24 teams

B.C. sees 9 new COVID-19 cases, one death as officials watch for new cases amid Phase Two

Number of confirmed active cases is at 244, with 37 people in hospital

Nanaimo senior clocked going 50 km/hr over limit says her SUV shouldn’t be impounded

RCMP say they can’t exercise discretion when it comes to excessive speeding tickets

Illicit-drug deaths up in B.C. and remain highest in Canada: chief coroner

More than 4,700 people have died of overdoses since B.C. declared a public health emergency in early 2016

CMHC sees declines in home prices, sales, starts that will linger to end of 2022

CMHC said average housing prices could fall anywhere from nine to 18 per cent in its forecast

B.C. Paralympian named to Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame

Three-time world and Paralympic gold medalist Sonja Gaudet is part of 11-member class

B.C. drive-in theatre shuts down to await appeal of car limits, concession rules

Business owner Jay Daulat voluntarily closed down the theatre awaiting a health ministry decision

Most Read