Have you ever stopped to think about the ways that hunters and trappers help exploration companies in the NWT and Nunavut?
Well, to start with, exploration companies are usually in remote areas, are helicopter supported, and must abide by strict terms and conditions of their licenses and permits. This can include monitoring wildlife movements and mitigating any possible impact, as well as hiring a local wildlife monitor recommended by the Hunters and Trappers Organization. Local wildlife monitors not only keep the workers safe from predators, but also advise companies when to shut down helicopters and drills if wildlife is in the area. Their experience on the land and local knowledge is invaluable to the exploration team. It is not uncommon for a wildlife monitor to train-up (so to speak) and become a geological field assistant. Edwin Aggark from Chesterfield Inlet is an excellent example.
Wildlife monitors must have the authority to shut down the helicopter and drills if wildlife is in the area. They are the community’s eyes and ears on what the exploration company’s activities are and will report back to the community if a company is not doing the right thing.It is also very important that the wildlife monitor knows that they can do their job and not face criticism and backlash from the exploration company or their contractors. If they feel that they cannot speak openly with the company, then you may find yourself not being able to explore the next year because of activities that were of your own doing, and that the monitor did not feel comfortable speaking with you about it.
Grounding the helicopter and shutting off the drills may delay your program, but ultimately benefit by working with the wildlife monitor. Your project can go a long way towards building the trust and respect of the local community.
Conversely, exploration companies have helped work with hunters and trappers, as well as local search and rescue organizations with free helicopter time to help locate overdue hunters. Companies are quick to provide help when requested and at no cost.
The actual wildlife monitoring that the wildlife monitors do is of critical importance not only to the exploration company, but in addition, the information collected is distributed to the government, the respective hunters and trappers organization, as well as to the regulatory authorities. In many instances, government no longer has as many biologists that they once had, and rely on local observations for information on herd health, population, and movements. If a predator is getting too close to your camp or activities, you don’t want to be the one to shoot it. If you do, it could be counted against that community’s quota for that animal and you will be fined. The wildlife monitor is the best person to dispatch the animal or provide advise on how to move it away.
Then there is helicopters causing wildlife disturbances. What to do if you see such activity as low-level flying, chasing, or harassing of wildlife? Notice the colour of the helicopter and maybe the call letters and then report this information to the authorities for them to investigate. It is not always exploration companies that can cause problems, but every instance is worth investigating.
When you have the opportunity, there is nothing quite like sitting down with a group of hunters and trappers, a map and some coloured pencils to record cabins, migration route, favoured hunting and fishing location, and just hearing the stories and laughter. Time well spent.