- Mar 2017
Sachs Harbour, located on Banks Island, is a small settlement in northern Canada visited by Berger during the Inquiry. The map below shows the location of Sachs Harbour and gives a sense of the breadth of the north Berger travelled. According to the Canadian census, only 112 people lived in the settlement in 2011. The vast majority of residents speak english today, though some report english and non-official language, probably a local indigenous language (Census). Permanent indigenous residents of the island are permitted subsistence hunting and trapping of wild animals to preserve their way of life (Parks Canada). Evidence of pre-Dorset inhabitation of the island has been uncovered and dated to 1500 BCE. Eastern Arctic Dorset, Thule, and Inuvialuit all have left physical traces on the island. European explorers came in the 1850s in an unsuccessful search for the northwest passage (Parks Canada).
Sachs Harbour is the administrative site of Aulavik national park (Parks Canada). The park covers ~4600 square miles (12,000 square kilometers) and is home to a wide variety of land animals as well as the Thompsen river. Over 68,000 muskox make their home on Banks island, the highest concentration of muskoxen in the world with a significant portion living in the park itself. The Thompsen river is the northernmost navigable waterway and home to a wide variety of freshwater fish and related aquatic organisms. An isolated wilderness park, the land and organisms that live there are set aside to conserve "pristine arctic environment" (Parks Canada).
Canada, Statistics. "Sachs Harbour, Northwest Territories (Code 6101041) And Northwest Territories (Code 61) (Table)". Statistics Canada. N.p., 2012. Web. 9 Mar. 2017.
"Parks Canada - Aulavik National Park - Aulavik National Park Of Canada". 2013. Pc.Gc.Ca. http://www.pc.gc.ca/eng/pn-np/nt/aulavik/index.aspx.
Porcupine caribou herd
The Porcupine caribou herd is one of the largest migratory barren-ground caribou herds found in North America. The range of the herd spans over 250,000 square kilometers in the northern tundra. In the spring, the herd migrates between Alaska and Yukon’s arctic coast. In the winter, the herd ventures into Yukon’s Ogilvie Mountains. Although the majority of the land in the range of the herd is undeveloped, there are certain key areas which have been industrialized. Oil and gas exploration in the Eagle Plains basin interrupts the winter range of the Porcupine caribou herd. Also affecting the herd’s winter range are the Dempster Highway and mineral exploration in the Peel River watershed. The Dempster Highway connects Inuvik to Dawson City (Porcupine Caribou Management Board).
Regarding population size of the Porcupine caribou herd, according to the Arctic journal, “migratory wild reindeer and caribou numbers have dropped by about one-third since populations peaked in the 1990s and early 2000s”. There are natural periods of abundance and scarcity among migratory tundra caribou herds. These increases and decreases in population size are likely results of “continental climate switches” (Gunn et al. 2009, iii). Since the first population survey in the early 1970s, the Porcupine Caribou Management Board has conducted a survey every two years and reports that the population size has fluctuated between 100,000 and 200,000 animals (Porcupine Caribou Management Board). A detailed graph estimating the size of the population of the Porcupine caribou herd is shown below.
For further information, please consider the following link to The Porcupine Caribou Management Board (PCMB) webpage: http://www.pcmb.ca/.
Gunn, Anne, Don Russell, Robert G. White, and Gary Kofinas. "Facing a Future of Change: Wild Migratory Caribou and Reindeer." Arctic 62, no. 3 (2009): Iii-Vi. http://www.jstor.org/stable/40513303.
Porcupine Caribou Management Board. "The Porcupine Caribou Management Board (PCMB)." Porcupine Caribou Management Board. Accessed March 08, 2017. http://www.pcmb.ca/.
Bluenose caribou herd
Many of the same concerns regarding the well-being of the Bluenose caribou herd in the Berger Inquiry are still being discussed today due to continued industrial exploration, specifically regarding oil and gas, in the Northwest Territories and the Arctic. Since oil and gas are still valued resources in our current societies, exploration continues in the North, as described by Anne Dunn and her colleagues in the 2009 Arctic publication. These concerns include changes of habitat due to the introduction or industrial development such as roads, oilfields, mines, etc. The attraction of job opportunity to areas surrounding the Bluenose caribou herd could potentially cause an increase in demand of caribou meat. Increased income as a result of employment for industrial exploration allows for the advancement of hunting methods regarding the locating of caribou and utilization of year-round roads implemented originally for industrial exploration. The concerns regarding the Bluenose East and Bluenose West caribou herds of the Northwest Territories result specifically from oil and gas exploration (Gunn et al. 2009, iii).
Besides industrial exploration, there are concerns about the population and survival of the Bluenose caribou herd surrounding climate trends. Specifically, warmer temperatures will affect the environmental conditions in which the caribou rely on for sustenance. An increased temperature in the wintertime could correspond to more freeze-thaw cycles (Gunn et al. 2009, iii).
Regarding population size, according to the Arctic journal, “migratory wild reindeer and caribou numbers have dropped by about one-third since populations peaked in the 1990s and early 2000s”. There are natural periods of abundance and scarcity among migratory tundra caribou herds. These increases and decreases in population size are likely results of “continental climate switches” (Gunn et al. 2009, iii). According to the Northwest Territories Environment and Natural Resources division, the Bluenose West caribou herd was estimated to have population of 112,000 in 1992. In 2015, its population was estimated to be approximately 15,000. The Bluenose East caribou herd was estimated to have a population of 104,000 in 2000. In 2015, its population was estimated to be between 35,000 and 40,000 (Northwest Territories).
Gunn, Anne, Don Russell, Robert G. White, and Gary<br> Kofinas. "Facing a Future of Change: Wild<br> Migratory Caribou and Reindeer." Arctic 62, no. 3 (2009): Iii-Vi. http://www.jstor.org/stable/40513303.
Northwest Territories: Environment and Natural Resources. "Barren-ground Caribou: Northern Herds." Environment and Natural Resources. Accessed March 08, 2017. http://www.enr.gov.nt.ca/node/2979.
- Parks Canada
- Bluenose West caribou
- Ogilvie Mountains
- Bluenose East caribou
- Dawson City
- Bluenose caribou herd
- Porcupine caribou herd
- Eagle Plains
- Dempster Highway
- industrial exploration
- National Park