Photo by Whitehorse Star
Ken Reeder and Tom Jung
Photo by Whitehorse Star
Ken Reeder and Tom Jung
Ethics, image and increased management are driving a proposal to reduce the length of the wolverine trapping season in the Yukon.
The Carcross-Tagish Renewable Resources Council and Environment Yukon have submitted the proposal for review by the Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board.
The board is currently reviewing 14 proposals, and will eventually decide which ones to forward to Environment Minister Pauline Frost for consideration by the territorial cabinet.
The council and the Yukon government are recommending the end of the season for trapping wolverines be changed from March 10 to Feb. 28.
Representatives of the resources council and Environment Yukon told a recent public meeting there is evidence wolverines can have their litter of kits in late February and early March.
Co-chair Ken Reeder of the Carcross-Tagish council told the audience that as a trapper, he doesn’t want to be trapping wolverine in March knowing there’s a possibility the kits will be left to starve to death in the den.
Ending the season on Feb. 28 removes the risk of orphaning wolverine kits, says the written proposal.
Senior Environment biologist Tom Jung told the audience the numbers show the percentage of female wolverine trapped increases the longer trappers go into the season.
In addition to the ethical question, there is the wildlife management side of the equation that says maintaining a healthy abundance of females is important to the wolverine population as a whole, he suggested.
Jung said there is not a whole lot known about wolverines because it is difficult and costly to study them in the wild.
The written proposals points out “wolverines are of increasing conservation interest in northern Canada, Alaska, and Scandinavia, with research focused on harvest sustainability.”
Not ensuring best management practices for wolverine are in play could become an image problem for the territory’s trade in wolverine pelts and products, says the proposal.
“You know it is important to show the world we are doing our best to look after our wildlife,” Reeder told the audience.
When it was realized Environment Yukon and the resources council were both moving forward with initiatives to shorten the wolverine season, Jung said, they joined their efforts to bring the proposal forward together.
Southern Tutchone audience member Ron Chambers of the Champagne and Aishihik First Nation said in the old days it was the RCMP who regulated trapping in the territory.
He suggested regulations were not founded on a lot of science, so if today there is evidence of need for change, the change should be made to ensure the Yukon has this wildlife in the future.
It wasn’t a matter of unethical practices in the past, said Chambers, but rather one of not having the information.
“Bring it up, you will see trappers agree,” he told the audience.
Jung said there’s not a lot of information about wolverines to go on from other places.
“We are the only territory or province that has this information, that can say based on the information we have, we should shorten the season,” he said.
Jung said they estimate the wolverine population in the Yukon is between 6,000 and 7,000 but they really don’t know because they are so hard to count.
According to fur harvest records compiled by Environment Yukon, trappers turned in 163 wolverine pelts in the 2015-16 trapping season for an average pelt price of $273, or a total value of $44,499 for Yukon trappers.
The average annual harvest over the last five years to the end of the 2015-16 season was 149, with an average pelt value of $266.
The Carcross-Tagish Renewable Resources Council has also put forward a proposal for a regulation making it mandatory to report and attach a seal to marten pelts.
The council maintains there is no single, reliable reporting method to accurately account for information on the harvest of marten, says the written proposal.
It notes marten are among the most important furbearer in terms of their harvest and economic return for trappers.
Marten, says the proposal, are the only furbearer in the Yukon that are managed on a quota basis in some areas.
Reeder told the audience the quota in the Southern Lakes region is small.
The resources council can’t do its job in making recommendations regarding the harvest of marten if it doesn’t have accurate information about harvest numbers, he said.
The fur harvest records show marten are consistently the furbearer species that generates the most economic benefit for the Yukon.
In the 2015-16 season, 2,833 were harvested for a return of $192,644, or an average pelt price of $68.
The management board has held public meetings in five Yukon communities since mid-November to discuss the 14 proposed regulation changes.
Yukoners have until 1 p.m. Friday to provide written submissions to the board, conduct an online survey available on the board’s website, or both.
Following the public review, the board will decide which proposals to advance to the Environment minister.
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