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Prospectors may frighten caribou herd

Brent Reaney
Northern News Services

Hall Beach (Mar 07/05) - Hunters in Hall Beach and Iglulik are worried low flying helicopters used by prospectors may be affecting the migration patterns of the region's caribou herd.

Accustomed to finding caribou on the Melville Peninsula, this year hunters from both communities say they have to travel more than 200 kilometres toward Pond Inlet on Baffin Island.

Hunters in both communities now travel in groups because the distance is too far to go alone.

Arnatsiaq said a group of Iglulik men looking for caribou left the community Feb. 25 and had not returned as of March 1.

"There were hunters who have seen (helicopters) flying very low and disturbing the wildlife," said Iglulik resident Nick Arnatsiaq.

After the hunters approached the hamlet this past summer, Arnatsiaq said the council spoke with De Beers Canada about the issue.

"They say it won't happen again, but how do we know?" he asked.

Environment Minister Olayuk Akesuk said his department is willing to talk with the hunters about the problem, but thinks the migration path could be normal.

"I believe that it is a natural cycle that animals do migrate," Akesuk said.

In Akesuk's home community of Cape Dorset, caribou were once nearby, or even in town, but he says they are now hard to find.

A sign calling for the co-ordination of a group hunting trip to bring caribou meat back to the community is posted in the Hall Beach hunters and trappers association office.

Resident Jake Ikeperiar thinks the prospectors' helicopters are at least part of the reason the caribou seem to have left.

"There's non-stop planes 24 hours a day on Melville Peninsula," Ikeperiar says of the summer months.

Ikeperiar only knows of two or three households in Hall Beach that still have caribou meat left. Without caribou meat, people are forced to buy their meat from the Northern store or eat the last of fermented walrus.

"The meat's too expensive," Ikeperiar said of the store-bought products. "It's not the kind of meat we're used to."

On March 1, Akesuk said it would take at least a few more days before the department would have anything to report.