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Government wants caribou kidneys

Mike W. Bryant
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Dec 16/05) - North Slave Wildlife officials want hunters to turn in caribou kidneys in an effort to determine the health of the Bathurst herd.

NNSL Photo/graphic
Bruno Croft, a caribou monitoring specialist, displays a kit that wildlife officials hope hunters will use this winter to help determine the health of the Bathurst caribou herd. - Mike W. Bryant/NNSL photo

Collection kits are now available at the Environment and Natural Resources office. They contain a sample bag for the kidneys, a ruler to measure fat on the animal's rump, a pen and a data sheet to list the caribou's sex, bone marrow colour and whether any parasites were found.

The samples can be dropped off at the department's Old Town office or at winter road monitoring stations during the hunting season.

Bruno Croft, a caribou monitoring specialist with the department's North Slave office, said the more people who participate the study the better understanding they will have of the herd's overall health. He said kidneys provide good information on the caribou's health, as long as the fat on them isn't removed. The kidneys can even tell researchers whether a cow has given birth within the last year.

"They may want to keep the kidneys, that's alright," said Croft, noting that some people like to eat them.

"But it would be greatly appreciated if they brought them in."

The department is also asking hunters to take a measurement of fat from the animal's back near the tail.

The Bathurst caribou hunt became a source of controversy earlier this year when a management study was unveiled in the legislative assembly, warning that harvest quotas may have to be reduced if herd populations continue to decline.

The department reported two years ago that the Bathurst herd dropped to 185,000 animals from 350,000 in 1996.

Hunting outfitters insisted that government biologists got the numbers wrong.

They believe many Bathurst caribou were lumped in with the previously unknown Ahiak herd, which government biologists estimate is 200,000-strong.

Barry Taylor, owner of Arctic Safaris outfitters, said he thinks its a good idea to survey hunters. He thinks the Bathurst herd numbers are going up and the survey may help prove that.

"Good idea," said Taylor.

"At least it will give them some info because they sure don't have much as it is."