Winter conditions can vary significantly across an area the size of the Northwest Territories. Some regions experienced a significant northern winter this year, while other areas were spared the worst of it. Unlike further south, however, harsh winter weather is not as much of an issue for the territory’s rugged game species. Insects, crusty snow and increasingly warm summers are factors more likely to stress these northern animals.
In the N.W.T., there are open seasons for black bears, grizzly bears and polar bears. All three species are doing well, and the hunting prospects are excellent.
Hunting prospects for bison are mixed. In order to manage the spread of disease, the population has been significantly reduced in the Bison Control Area south of Great Slave Lake. Outside of the control area, though, the species is doing well. In fact, the hunting quota has been increased for the Nahanni bison population.
Woodland caribou populations in the territory’s western mountains are stable, as are some remote herds of barren-ground caribou. For most of the territory, however, barren-ground caribou populations are declining, some to the point that all hunting has been closed. Hunters must check the hunting regulations, which have been adjusted to account for this new reality.
As the hunting success for caribou declines, the pressure on moose populations increases. The species is mostly holding it’s own so far in the territory, although there are declines in the most easily accessed areas.
As with moose, there is increasing hunter demand for this species, and all is not well. On the northern islands, parasites and disease have been affecting muskox populations. On the mainland, muskox numbers are still good, but there is a shift in the patterns of habitat use, possibly due to changes in the climate.