Bulkley Valley Research Centre - Science in the Public Interest

Use of Guide and Outfitter Knowledge and Sampling to Advance Wildlife Health Surveillance Systems

Project Reference Number: 2018-17

Project Status: Active

Led by: Dr. Naima Jutha, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Calgary

Funder: Ministry of Environment, CCS

Project Proposal

The Northern Mountain Population of woodland caribou (NMPC) in northwestern British Columbia has significant cultural, economic, and ecological value to local First Nations, resident hunters, the guidedhunting industry, and all Canadians, yet little is known about their health and population status. Concurrently, considerable concerns have been expressed by land users that herd populations are declining. Such knowledge gaps along with the remoteness and poor accessibility of this population make effective management action difficult. The aims of this proposed research are to: (i) fill knowledge gaps on historical and current health status and trends of NMPC in NW BC using guide and outfitter local ecological knowledge and biological sampling, and (ii) to foster local capacity for an ongoing, locallydriven wildlife health surveillance system that will act as a framework to be more broadly applied to other species and regions.

To achieve these goals, this study will employ a participatory action research approach. We will work with guides and outfitters to gather samples from harvested caribou and do interviews to document information on their observations and local knowledge on historical and current health and population status of the herds with which they interact. This project was initiated by the Tahltan Guide and Outfitters Association (TGOA) and the Government of British Columbia Wildlife Health Program, and is strongly supported by the local community and the Tahltan First Nation. The ultimate goal is a new, locally-driven and community-based model for wildlife health monitoring, where knowledge, experience, and data from guides and outfitters are gathered in a systematic and scientifically robust manner to be used in adaptive decision-making and management of wildlife. 

Research Objectives:

  1. Document guide and outfitter local ecological knowledge (LK) of historical and current caribou health status and population trends;
  2. Establish the current health status of hunted Northern Mountain caribou using guide and outfitter based harvest sampling;
  3. Engage community and build local capacity for a collaborative, sustainable communitybased wildlife health surveillance framework;