PEARY CARI­BOU

Qausuit­tuq Na­tional Park, Nu­navut

Canadian Geographic - - PARK PROTECTORS -

Peary cari­bou are not easy to see — es­pe­cially in the spring and fall, says Jo­van Simic, act­ing park man­ager for Qausuit­tuq Na­tional Park on north­ern Bathurst Is­land, Nu­navut. That’s when their coats change from mostly white in win­ter, to slate grey with white legs and un­der-parts in the sum­mer, then back again, al­low­ing them to blend per­fectly with patches of rock and snow. They are also smaller and slighter than their cousins to the south, and their dwin­dling pop­u­la­tion (now only 13,000 an­i­mals across the High Arc­tic) makes them ever harder to find. The pro­tec­tion of the species is one of the main rea­sons Parks Canada cre­ated the 11,000-square-kilo­me­tre park in 2015. Now es­tab­lished, it’s time to clean it up. Un­til re­cently, hun­dreds of fuel bar­rels dot­ted the land­scape — rem­nants of oil and gas ex­plo­ration in the 1960s and ’70s. The bar­rels were eye­sores and sources of con­tam­i­na­tion, and while not nec­es­sar­ily con­sid­ered a ma­jor di­rect threat to cari­bou, their pres­ence only fur­ther dero­gated the species’ em­bat­tled habi­tat. And for Inuit that have used the land for mil­len­nia — arche­o­log­i­cal ev­i­dence of Inuit cul­tures in the area dates back 4,500 years — “it’s very im­por­tant to pre­serve and con­serve it in the best state pos­si­ble,” says Simic. Com­mu­nity played a big role in help­ing with the bar­rel re­moval lo­gis­tics — for ex­am­ple, by ad­vis­ing on how best to ac­cess some of the spots, and in pin­point­ing bar­rels that had not been iden­ti­fied in pre­vi­ous in­ven­to­ries. Lo­cal crews were hired to as­sist. The team re­moved 200 bar­rels — a size­able dent in the num­ber scat­tered through­out the park. “We had a com­mu­nity feast as part of the wrap-up,” says Simic, adding that more than 80 peo­ple showed up in Res­o­lute — a town of 200 peo­ple — to cel­e­brate the work that was done.

Two Peary cari­bou in Qausuit­tuq Na­tional Park ( this im­age). Jo­van Simic ( be­low, far right), the park’s act­ing man­ager, and his staff out­side their of­fice.

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