The Yukon government has started consultation and targeted engagement with affected First Nations, outfitters and stakeholders on options to address conservation concerns for thinhorn sheep in five Sheep Management Units in southwest Yukon: Brooks Arm, Ruby Range, Donjek, Nutzotin and Flat Top.
In 2022 and 2023, biologists with the Yukon government’s Department of Environment conducted aerial surveys of thinhorn sheep populations in these areas. The surveys show population declines in sheep populations ranging from 16 to 63 per cent since 2015 and 2016 in the five Sheep Management Units.
The tools available to manage harvest include adaptive management options such as Wildlife Act permits, Permit Hunt Authorizations, registration hunts and voluntary or emergency closures.
Consultation and engagement will take place with the Yukon government’s wildlife co-management partners, including local Yukon First Nations, the Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board and local Renewable Resources Councils. The Yukon government has also welcomed feedback from affected outfitters and other affected stakeholders such as the Yukon Fish and Game Association, the Yukon Wild Sheep Foundation and environmental NGOs.
The Government of Yukon is committed to working together with Yukon First Nations and other wildlife co-management partners to protect and conserve the Yukon’s diverse wildlife species for the benefit of all Yukoners and future generations.
The Yukon’s thinhorn sheep is an iconic species that is significant to our territory. Recent population declines are concerning and action must be taken to avoid potentially irreversible impacts. We acknowledge the importance of sheep to Yukon First Nations, resident hunters, the outfitting industry and all Yukoners. We are committed to working with partners to protect them for current and future generations.
Minister of Environment Nils Clarke
Consultation began earlier this month and is scheduled to be completed by early 2024.
Sheep surveys in 2023 and 2022 confirm significant declines compared to 2015 surveys, ranging from 16 per cent in the Ruby Range Sheep Management Unit to as high as 63 per cent in the Donjek Sheep Management Unit. Other government agencies have observed similar declines in Northern BC, Alaska and other parts of the Yukon.
The Science-based guidelines for the management of thinhorn sheep in Yukon recommend against harvest of sheep populations that are very small or believed to be in serious decline. The guidelines indicate a full-curl ram-harvest rate of no more than 4 per cent of the non-lamb population is considered sustainable for stable populations.
Any updates regarding conservation actions in these Sheep Management Units will be made public ahead of the 2024 hunting season.