Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Hunters in Yukon Fail to Reach Bison Quota

CBC News

Yukon hunters gunning for the territory's wily wood bison have failed to meet their quotas again for the eighth year in a row, raising concerns the herd is getting too big.

Only 68 bison were taken during last winter's hunting season, out of more than 200 permits issued.

Yukon territorial government biologists are now concerned the herd is growing so big, it could start to hurt the survival of other large mammals living in the area.

Bison were introduced to the territory about 20 years ago, and have thrived without any local predators. Officials wanted to cap the herd at about 500 animals, but now are hearing estimates there could be as many as 1,200.

"Some people think that there's a lot of them and then there are other hunters who went out there this year who think there are not a lot," says Tom Jung, a biologist with Environment Yukon.

"They are pretty hard to find. We do think there is somewhere over 500 animals out there. How many over 500 is really hard to pin down until we get a good census done."

Jung says the annual harvest does help slow the growth of the herd, but not by enough, especially when annual harvest targets have never been met.

Jung says the herd has expanded its range, from where it was introduced at Kluane Lake in southwest Yukon as far east as Carmacks in the centre of the territory. That's complicated efforts to monitor the animals, which can use habitat from the hilltops to valley bottoms, says Jung.

More worrisome, Jung says they know little about the impact bison have on moose and caribou in the central Yukon.

A proper bison census is planned for summer but Jung says they may have to expand next years' hunt to cut back herd numbers.

Another large animal that the Inuit of Canada's Arctic regions are more familiar with is the muskox. The muskox is also used as a subject in their Inuit art. For examples, see Muskox Inuit Sculptures

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