Snow Goose Hunt in Wapusk National Park
Indigenous and local communities working with Parks Canada to address snow goose overabundance in Wapusk National Park
In the spring of 2018, Parks Canada’s Manitoba Field Unit (MFU) collaborated with local Indigenous communities and park stakeholders in and around the Churchill area to facilitate a community hunt for snow geese in Wapusk National Park. The park, located in the transition zone between boreal forest and arctic tundra in the province’s northern wilderness, holds great meaning for the surrounding communities and Parks Canada aims to include them in how the land is managed and preserved, from both an ecological and visitor experience standpoint.
Over many years, Wapusk National Park has been negatively impacted by the hyper-abundant snow goose population - to the point where the greater ecosystem is under threat. Snow goose feeding habits destroy plant roots and lead to large-scale loss of vegetation resulting in erosion, increased soil salinity and irreversible ecosystem changes to their northern breeding grounds. The snow goose population continues to grow which means changes have been worsening in recent years.
In collaboration with local Indigenous and stakeholder communities, the MFU planned and facilitated a 5-day hunt into the park with four Indigenous hunters and two local hunters in an effort to bring awareness to the snow goose issue and to connect Indigenous and local communities to the park. The hunting group, which also included an Indigenous Parks Canada staff member and the provincial game bird manager, traveled into the snow goose habitat by helicopter – the only viable means of accessing the area. The idea of goose hunting in the park was raised during Wapusk National Park Management Plan consultations involving stakeholder groups, including First Nation groups.
Following the hunt, Parks Canada hosted a snow goose cook-off in Churchill with the geese harvested - over 150 people attended, tasted the dishes and voted for the Golden Goose Award winner! This well-received event brought the greater community together and allowed Parks Canada to bring broader awareness to the snow goose issue among the locals.
Even though dozens of geese were harvested, the hunt will have no impact on the hyper-abundant snow goose population. Rather, the aim of the hunt is to raise awareness of the continent-wide snow goose problem, encourage people to consider taking up goose hunting, and provide a meaningful way for Indigenous people to reconnect to the park.
The MFU is planning its second hunt into the park and we will continue to find ways to bring awareness of the negative impacts this hyper-abundant species is having on the park and surrounding ecosystem.
Wapusk National Park is managed cooperatively by the ten-member Wapusk Management Board, comprised of representatives of the Government of Canada; Province of Manitoba; Town of Churchill; Fox Lake Cree Nation; and York Factory First Nation.