Landscape in and around Kugluktuk in June 2023. Photo by Aimee Guile

Landscape in and around Kugluktuk in June 2023. Photo by Aimee Guile

In the air for Sahtì Ekwǫ̀ (Bluenose-East) calving survey 2023

Kugluktuk, NU: WRRB Conservation Biologist Aimee Guile joined GNWT staff, and representatives from the North Slave Métis Alliance, Tłı̨chǫ Government, Sahtu Secretariat, Yell wknives Dene First Nation,NWT Métis Nation, Government of Nunavut, and community members of Kugluktuk for the Sahtì Ekwǫ̀ (Bluenose-East) calving ground survey, June 2 to 10.

The survey is organized by the GNWT every two years and is based out of Kugluktuk, Nunavut.

The calving ground survey, combined with a composition survey that occurs during the rut in October, provides new population estimate for the herd.  

A full update on herd numbers should be available by the end of 2023.

The second part of this process involves a  photo plane flying over where there are the highest number of caribou and a camera takes photographs. Later, the caribou in each photograph are  counted which makes up the part of the herd estimate.

The early June surveys focus on female ɂekwǫ̀ and their calves. In the fall, another method - the composition survey - is done to count the bulls. In a composition survey, a helicopter is used to find groups of caribou that are then classified by age and sex. Using this method, a better understanding can be established on a herd population as well as the health, age, and sex ratio of the animals.

The two surveys are used to provide a population estimate. Final tallies are shared with co-management partners and the public.
Other methods of caribou monitoring include on-the-land observations, photography, DNA analysis and the use of collars.

The GNWT Department of Environment and Climate Change has a more detailed description of Population Surveys and how they are done to manage and conserve northern herds.