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- Northern Contaminants Program: testing Yukon wildlife
- Recommedations for consumption
- Testing the Porcupine caribou herd
- Animal Health Programs: monitoring wildlife health
- Monitoring Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD)
- Winter tick monitoring
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- How to collect biological samples (video)
- Contact us
For many years the Northern Contaminants Program (NCP) monitored contaminant levels in Yukon moose and caribou. The major conclusions:
- Mammals, birds, and plants in Yukon are largely free from contamination.
- Some animals have elevated levels of cadmium in their organs.
- Cadmium levels in Yukon moose and caribou appear to be stable over time.
- Mercury fluctuates over time in caribou organs, but over the long term is remaining stable in the Porcupine caribou herd.
As a result of these studies, the NCP determined that contaminant levels in Yukon moose and woodland caribou did not warrant further testing.
The NCP was able to use archived caribou tissue samples to study potential effects of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident (March 2012) on the Porcupine caribou herd in northern Yukon. A comparison of samples taken from the caribou before and after the accident has indicated no increase in radioactivity in the caribou as a result of the Fukushima accident. The caribou continue to be a healthy food source for northerners.
These recommendations are based on eating these referenced amounts every year. If you don’t eat any this year, you can eat twice as much next year and remain within the recommended limits.
- Caribou and moose meat are very nutritious, and there is no limit on the amount of meat (muscle) recommended for consumption.
- Health Canada has issued recommendations for consumption of organ meats based on concentrations of metals found in some Yukon wildlife. The recommendations vary with the type of animal and the herd. For caribou, the recommendation ranges from a maximum of 7-32 kidneys/person/year, or 4-16 livers/person/year. The recommended limit for moose liver or kidney is 1/person/
- Tobacco contains much higher levels of cadmium than animal sources. Reducing or eliminating smoking is the most effective way of limiting cadmium intake.
For more information about contaminants in wildlife, please contact your local Environment Yukon office or the Yukon Contaminant Committee at (867) 667-3283.
The Northern Contaminants Program (NCP) is now accepting biological samples (kidney, liver, muscle and tooth) from the Porcupine caribou herd only.
The NCP has measured mercury in this herd every year since 1994, and has seen that levels cycle up and down over the years. Although levels of mercury are not high enough to cause concern for the caribou (or those eating caribou meat), continued monitoring will help us to understand what's driving that cycle up and down. This, in turn, will help researchers understand how mercury moves around in the Arctic, and may even allow predictions of how things like climate change may affect mercury in caribou and other Arctic wildlife.
If you have a successful Porcupine caribou hunt this season, please deliver the following
samples to the nearest Environment Yukon office.
- kidney (whole)
- liver (about 0.5 kg)
- muscle tissue (about 0.5 kg)
- incisor bar (front teeth)
Each sample should be put in a clean plastic bag and frozen as soon as possible. This is a request for assistance only, not a legal requirement. The results of this study will be summarized in future hunting regulations summaries.
Environment Yukon needs your help! Samples from hunted animals help us monitor the health of moose, caribou, bison, sheep, mountain goat, deer and elk.
Sample collection kits are available from any Environment Yukon office before hunting season opens and should be returned as soon as possible after the hunt. Hunters are asked to submit samples of fecal matter from their kills, and are welcome to submit any tissues that appear abnormal for an assessment. Parasites found on a carcass should also be submitted.
Environment Yukon is requesting samples from deer, moose, caribou, birds and bears to contribute to health monitoring programs. Please contact our Animal Health Unit at 867-667-8531 for more information.
Environment Yukon is testing road-killed and harvested dear, elk, moose and caribou for CWD to ensure that, should this disease occur in Yukon, it will be detected early. To date, CWD has not been found in Yukon animals.
A portion of the brain and various glands from the head are collected for testing. The head will not be damaged and can be returned to the hunter.
- Compulsory submission: whole elk heads
- Requested samples: whole heads of deer, moose and caribou
Hunting Cervids Outside Yukon
CWD is a growing threat to wildlife populations, particularly deer and elk. It has also occurred in moose, and caribou are susceptible. Animal carcasses and offal transported by hunters can transmit disease and disease-causing agents between regions.
Yukon has joined B.C. and Alaska in passing regulations relating to the import and/or transport of species susceptible to CWD.
- The import of a whole cervid (deer, elk, moose, caribou) carcass or portions of a carcass is banned. Exceptions to this rule are: a cleaned skull cap with antlers; cleaned teeth removed from the head; edible meat completely detached from the head and backbone; finished taxidermy mounts; and tanned hides.
- Cervid carcasses or parts may be transported through Yukon temporarily if in a protective container.
- All butchering scraps and bones should be properly disposed of in a landfill so they are not scattered by animals.
The only exception to this rule are cervids harvested either in the N.W.T. or in the two hunting zones in B.C.
Some scent lures sold for the hunting of cervids contain animal urine or glands and could spread disease agents (particularly CWD prions) to new locations. The sale and/or possession of some of these lures is now prohibited. Check the Baiting and Poisoning section of the Yukon Hunting Regulations Summary for further information.
For more information about CWD, please contact the Program Veterinarian at 867-667-8663 or the Chief Veterinary Officer at 867-456-5582.
Winter ticks (Dermacentor albipictus) are present in Yukon. Inspections of elk, deer, moose and caribou hides have found that ticks are present on about half of all elk and deer, and on very few moose.
Winter ticks have not caused serious problems for Yukon wildlife. However, given their distribution across several Yukon species, they are likely here to stay. They do not carry diseases of concern to humans or wildlife, and they do not affect meat of harvested animals. These ticks are unlikely to attach themselves to humans or dogs.
Please report any observation of ticks on pets or wildlife to Environment Yukon. For more information or to report ticks, contact the Animals Health Unit at 867-667-8531.
We are monitoring the the presence and severity of winter ticks on elk, moose, deer and caribou in Yukon. Hides from road-killed and harvested animals are examined by wildlife technicians. We are asking that successful hunters submit samples from these species to an Environment Yukon office. The examination does not damage the hide, which can be returned to the hunter.
- Compulsory submission: whole elk hides
- Requested samples: whole hides or capes of deer, moose and caribou
Environment Yukon is interested in learning more about the health of the Aishihik wood bison herd. Please submit any abnornal-looking tissues from your bison. When you submit the head from a bison, we can collect samples and use them to evaluate various aspects of bison health. Heads will not be damaged and can be returned to the hunter.
- Compulsory samples: incisor bar
- Requested samples: whole heads, fecal matter, any body parts or tissue that appears abnornal.
Since bear research is extremely expensive and information on bear populations in Yukon is sparse, Environment Yukon is asking hunters for their assistance in gathering information on grizzly and black bears.
If you use a GPS unit when you hunt, please record the location of your kill site and bring that information to an Environment Yukon office. A wildlife technician will map the location on a database and ask to take a small sample of hide (one square inch).
Having a precise location of where a bear was killed (within a 100 meters of the kill location) and a small piece of hide with the hair can go a long way to telling us how healthy a population is. The location ties the biological information of the bear to an exact location and habitat. The hide and hair sample can be used for DNA, to get information about diet, and to detect the stress levels of the bear.
Information collected through this process will help direct harvest away from areas with declining populations and toward areas with healthy populations.
- Requested samples: GPS coordinates of kill site, hide sample (one square inch)
Environment Yukon is interested in learning more about the health of Yukon birds. We examine dead birds to learn about why they died, and collect samples to evaluate various aspects of bird health.
- Requested samples: any dead bird. (Under most circumstances, territorial birds can be returned to the submitter after examination.)
Hunters have been shooting and eating wild birds, including waterfowl species known to be carriers of avain influenza, for centuries without ill effects. Severly ill wild birds are rarely healthy enough to fly and are more likely to die of expsoure and predation than to be shot by hunters.
Cooking will kill the vast majority of pathogens, including avian influenza. Hunters are encouraged to use care in field dressing game birds and to avoid contaminating meat with fecal material. All wild game should be well-cooked to reduce the chance of spreading disease.
The Arctic Caribou and Moose Contaminants Program has produced a short video that shows how to collect biological samples and explains how the information is used. This video was developed as part of the Northern Contaminants Program.
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