NNSL Photo/Graphic

Canadian North

Home page text size buttonsbigger textsmall textText size Email this articleE-mail this page

Large bounty leads to skinning demonstration
Dettah trapper says he's seen more wolverines this year, ENR says 2014 is not an anomaly

Walter Strong
Northern News Services
Published Saturday, December 6, 2014

A Mildred Hall School class was treated to a wolverine skinning demonstration Friday because of one lucky Dettah trapper.

NNSL photo/graphic

George Tatsiechele, a trapper from Dettah, demonstrates how to skin a wolverine for a group of Grade 4 students at Mildred Hall School Nov. 28. Kaleigh Porter, left, Kairan Bonnerouge-Noseworthy and Erika Wilke cover their noses to avoid a smell emanating from the animal they described as a "stink bomb." - Randi Beers/NNSL photo

When elder George Tatsiechele found two wolverines in one trap last week in the wilderness off Dettah Road, he approached Sheila Stewart, Yellowknife District No. 1's Dene Kede facilitator, and asked whether he could skin the animal for a group of students.

Dene Kede is a teaching model used in the NWT to bring Dene history, traditions and languages into the school curriculum.

"Sheila knew I had great interest in the topic," said Andrea Harding, a Grade 4 teacher who Stewart approached to host Tatsiechele.

During the demonstration, which took all morning Nov. 28, Tatsiechele demonstrated the amount of care he takes in making sure his knife creates no pinholes in the wolverine pelt. Flaws like this bring down its value.

"It takes all day (to skin a wolverine)," he told the students, adding each individual paw takes about an hour.

Tatsiechele told the group he traps the animals, skins them and sells the furs to the Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment to sell at international auctions as part of its Mackenzie Valley Fur Program.

He said a single pelt can bring in $300 to $450, depending on its quality.

'There's been more wolverines around'

Tatsiechele mentioned he's noticed a change in the amount of wolverines near Yellowknife during his demonstration, adding he thinks this summer's record fire season has moved them closer to Yellowknife.

On Nov. 21, Yellowknifer reported multiple residents had said they had seen a wolverine in town that week.

Adrian Lizotte with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, which keeps track of reported wildlife sightings, says his department hasn't gotten any more calls than usual.

"We have an average of below 10 (sightings), no more than 10, per year reported to us," he said.

"I'm not saying people aren't seeing more, but we only find out when they feel the need to give us a call."

He said it's not uncommon for local trappers to catch the animals around the Yellowknife area.

"I've heard of cases where they will chew off their own paw to get out of a trap," he said.

Robert Mulders, an ENR wildlife biologist, said it's hard to get a handle on wolverine numbers in different NWT regions. A young wolverine can cover as much as 1,000 square kilometres in a year, according to an ENR website.

He did say this summer's fire season could have affected their habitat, but it's hard to say how.

"We've had some pretty significant fires," he said.

"Most animals are able to move away and avoid fires and get displaced from their habitat . there have definitely been changes but I have no idea what they would be."

He added he hasn't noticed trappers submitting any more wolverine pelts than usual to the Mackenzie Valley Fur Program this year and he's heard it's normal to have a few sightings every winter around Yellowknife.

"They're definitely around," he said.

NWT Species at Risk, an ENR committee that tracks plants and animals in the territory, will discuss giving the animal a designation later this month. Under the organization's federal counterpart, Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada, the wolverine is listed as a species of special concern.

E-mailWe welcome your opinions. Click here to e-mail a letter to the editor.