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

‘Not the monster everyone thinks’: Sister of human-trafficking suspect speaks out

Trish Kelly’s brother was one of four Vancouver Island residents arrested last month in Saskatchewan

UPDATED: Indigenous youth occupy B.C. Legislature steps amidst court injunction

Police negotiating with people gathered in support of some of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs

Oak Bay ups deer management budget to $96,100 for 2020

Provincial grant approved for deer contraception program

Crews respond to house fire in Langford Monday night

Fire near Glen Lake Road and Haslam Avenue

Old Town hotel developer says full retention of historic buildings ‘impossible’

UVic development partner says past renovations, seismic instability are barriers

VIDEO: B.C.’s seventh coronavirus patient at home in Fraser Health region

Canada in ‘containment’ as COVID-19 spreads in other countries

B.C. takes over another Retirement Concepts senior care home

Summerland facility latest to have administrator appointed

RCMP pull office from Wet’suwet’en territory, but hereditary chiefs still want patrols to end

Chief says temporary closure of field office not enough as Coastal GasLink pipeline dispute drags on

Prescription opioids getting B.C. addicts off ‘poisoned’ street drugs

Minister Judy Darcy says Abbotsford pilot project working

Teck CEO says Frontier withdrawal a result of tensions over climate, reconciliation

Don Lindsay speaks at mining conference, a day after announcing suspension of oilsands project

Okanagan man swims across Columbia River to evade Trail police

RCMP Cpl. Devon Reid says the incident began the evening of Thursday, Feb. 20

‘Hilariously bad’: RCMP looking for couple with forged, paper Alberta licence plate

Mounties said the car crashed when it lost a wheel but the duo ran away as police arrived

Most Read