Project Objectives:

  • To document local and traditional knowledge on caribou, caribou hunting, hunting conflicts
  • To support subsistence and caribou resources
  • To have Noatak people give feedback on caribou management

Purpose of this Study:

  • Document the traditional knowledge of Noatak hunters' on caribou distribution and movements, and to document how Noatak hunters' interactions with non-local hunters are affecting their caribou hunting experiences
  • Part of a larger National Park Service funded project, examining perceptions of sport hunters, soundscapes effect on caribou, and collared caribou movements
  • No previous effort has documented local and traditional knowledge of caribou as held by Noatak people
  • We sought to understand to what extent Noatak caribou hunters have experienced encounters with non-locals hunters, and how those encounters are affecting their hunting experience and success
  • We also examined perceived importance of not seeing non- locals while caribou hunting, compared to other facets of hunting
  • This poster presents preliminary results from the first phase of the study, which included surveys with 62 active caribou harvesters in Noatak. The second phase of this study included participatory mapping with local caribou "experts"

Project Outcomes or Intended Outcomes:

The Noatak Caribou Traditional Knowledge Project documented a wealth of knowledge by local Noatak hunters about a range of topics ‒ on caribou behavior, migration, and hunting practices. The study also documented the interactions and experiences of local hunters with non-local hunters and commercial operators working in and near the Noatak National Preserve.

The findings of this study show that caribou hunters of Noatak are concerned that caribou migration is changing. These changes are seen to be due to a number of factors, but mostly because of the presence of aircraft and non-local hunters in the region. Predation by wolves and bears, climate change, and habitat change were also identified as having negative impacts to caribou migration and caribou hunting. Noatak hunters reported that safety and harvest of caribou largely determine what makes for a successful caribou hunt. Noatak hunters reported that these changes have resulted in a decrease in harvesting caribou, with hunters having to go on longer and more caribou hunting trips, and seeing more people out while hunting. Local and non-local hunters often used the same areas along the Noatak River, both inside and outside special areas, such as the National Park Service Commercial Use Area and the Noatak Controlled Use Area, and often during same hunting seasons (fall). Noatak hunters have specific ideas on how management of caribou hunting could be improved and hope their ideas will be considered by decision makers.