A new Wildlife Act and regulations in the Northwest Territories (NWT) came into force on November 30, 2014. The legislation provides the tools needed to protect and conserve wildlife in the NWT. These tools will ensure wildlife is wisely managed and conserved for the benefit of all residents.
Under the new legislation, Aboriginal harvesters in the NWT no longer need a General Hunting Licence (GHL) to exercise Aboriginal or treaty rights. They need to carry and show identification proving a right to harvest in that area. Work is being done with Aboriginal organizations to reach agreement on the type of identification that can be used to prove someone has an Aboriginal or treaty right.
Limits on harvesting barren-ground caribou, grizzly bears, muskox, polar bear and wood bison by Aboriginal or treaty rights holders put in place for conservation reasons remain the same. Other seasons and limits do not apply if harvesters are exercising an Aboriginal or treaty right to harvest.
General Hunting Licences (GHL)
Aboriginal harvesters in the NWT can still get a GHL, which allows them to harvest in the rest of the NWT, subject to land claim agreements. The seasons, bag limits, tag requirements and conditions for GHL holders in the big game, small game and trapping regulations remain the same and apply when using a GHL to harvest outside the area of Aboriginal or treaty rights.
Anyone with a GHL now can keep it for their lifetime.
Aboriginal people who do not have traditional harvesting rights in the NWT need a resident or non-resident hunting licence and must follow the seasons, bag limits and other conditions laid out in the regulations for their licence.
Resident Hunting Licences
Under the new legislation, people must live in the NWT for one continuous year before being eligible for a resident hunting licence.
Residents who temporarily move outside the NWT for less than 12 months are still considered residents as long as they intend to return to the NWT once within that timeframe. Exemptions from the 12-month limit on temporary absences include:
- education or for a family member accompanying an individual receiving education outside of the NWT
- medical treatment including counselling, mental health and addictions treatment
- caring for a family member who resides outside the NWT or a family member who must leave the NWT for medical treatment
- employer sponsored or endorsed leave
- volunteering services outside the NWT
- serving on active duty as a member of the Canadian Forces or the RCMP where the member is temporarily stationed outside the NWT
- a family member accompanying an individual on active military or police service
Non-Resident or Non-Resident Alien Hunting Licences
Hunters from outside the NWT require a non-resident hunting licence. Hunters from outside of Canada require a non-resident alien hunting licence. Non-resident and non-resident alien hunters must follow the seasons, bag limits and other conditions laid out in the regulations for their licence. Non-residents and non-resident aliens must use the services of a licenced NWT outfitter and guide to hunt big game.
Minimum Age for a Hunting Licence
The minimum age to get a hunting licence is 12. Young hunters under 18 must be accompanied by an adult hunter while hunting. Young people between 12 and 18 may hunt under the authority of an adult hunter’s licence.
The following are regulation changes to minimum standards for ammunition and equipment for hunting big game:
- At least .30 calibre ammunition to hunt wood bison
- At least .222 calibre ammunition to hunt wolf and wolverine in all areas of the NWT
- At least .243 calibre ammunition to hunt all other types of big game
- Minimum requirement of 2,800 joules of energy at the muzzle for polar bears
- draw weight for bows must be at least 20 kg at 700 mm draw and arrows must have a broadhead point width of at least 25 mm at the widest point or a barbless three-bladed bodkin head
- standards for crossbow use are a draw weight of at least 68 kg at 700 mm with a bolt weight of at least 16.2 kg and at least a 2.2 cm diameter cutting broadhead
Harvesting in Land Claim areas
Some land claim agreements provide an exclusive right to harvest wildlife in certain areas. Anyone without a recognized right to harvest in these areas under the land claim agreement requires permission from the land claimant organization to harvest there.
Some land claim agreements include an exclusive right for beneficiaries to harvest furbearers in certain areas. Non-beneficiaries cannot harvest the following small game species without permission from the land claim organization:
- Ground squirrel, red squirrel, marmot, and hare in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region
- Ground squirrel, red squirrel, and marmot in the Gwich’in Settlement Area
- Red squirrel and marmot in the Sahtu Settlement Area
- Woodchuck and red squirrel on Tłįchǫ lands
All other seasons, bag limits, tag requirements and conditions in the big game, small game and trapping regulations remain the same for licenced hunters.
Possession of Wildlife Meat or Parts
Under the new regulations, there are several ways people can legally possess game meat and other wildlife parts.
You can lawfully harvest it yourself, receive it from someone else who lawfully harvested it or you can get a permit for possession.
Hunters often give meat to other people.
There is no limit on how much meat a person can receive as a gift. This respects the tradition of sharing common to all cultures. Receipts are required for gifts of game meat over 5 kg. This protects people who receive gifted wildlife from being charged with illegal possession under the new legislation. The receipt must show:
- harvester’s name, licence or identification number
- signature of harvester
- date the meat was gifted
- species of game of the gifted meat
- weight of the portion of meat
Recipients of gifts of meat less than 5 kg are encouraged to label their packages with the harvester’s name and identification or licence number. While this is not a requirement, it will protect you from being charged with unlawful possession of wildlife if you have more than one package of gifted meat.
You do not need a permit to possess wildlife parts that have been tanned, preserved by a taxidermist or manufactured into food, clothing, jewellery or art.
You do not need a permit to possess wildlife parts you lawfully possessed before the November 2014.
Under the proposed regulations, you do not need a permit to possess the following parts:
- naturally shed antlers of caribou, elk, deer or moose
- porcupine quills
- feathers of birds or other inedible parts of ptarmigan or grouse
- owl pellets or feces from other species
- road-killed small game
- hooves unless certification is needed
- hides or pelts of wildlife other than furbearers unless certification is needed
- bones, including skulls with antlers or horns attached, unless certification is needed
Reporting a wildlife kill
You can kill wildlife without a permit or licence to prevent starvation and to defend life or property. You must report any wildlife killed for these reason to a Renewable Resource Officer. This includes:
- reporting the wounding or killing to an officer as soon as you can and providing details including your name, date, time, location, species, amount and any other related information requested by an officer
- following the direction of an officer
- if reasonable, submitting big game killed in defense of life or property to an officer
- not keeping any part of big game or prescribed wildlife that is killed in defense of life or property
If you accidentally kill or seriously wound big game with a motorized vehicle, you must report the accident to an officer within 24 hours and provide your name, date, time, location, amount of wildlife killed or seriously wounded, species and any other related information requested by an officer.
More information on the new Wildlife Act and regulations.