The ecological and social dynamics of Inuit narwhal foraging at Pond Inlet, Nunavut

David S. Lee
Dept. of Geography, McGill University
July, 2005
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Research over the past several decades on the nature of Inuit hunting of narwhals has focused upon harvesting technologies and the traditional ecological knowledge of modern hunting of the species. However, as much as such work has contributed to our understanding of Inuit and narwhal interaction, less is known about contemporary Inuit hunting behaviour of narwhal. The research presented in this dissertation redresses this gap by providing a detailed behavioural description and analysis of the Inuit narwhal hunting in two critical environments utilized by the Inuit of Pond Inlet---those of the spring floe-edge and the summer open water. This information and its analysis are presented through three manuscripts. The first manuscript forms the analytical basis of the behavioural description by presenting through the use of a decision flow chart, the parameters that affect narwhal hunting. The second and third manuscript explore different foraging strategies involved in several major decisions the Inuit typically face when pursuing narwhal at the floe-edge (Manuscript Two) and in the open water environment (Manuscript Three). The data pertinent to the major decision factors influencing actions in both environments were obtained through participant observation, supplemented by interviews with hunters and elders. The main results of this research pertain to the different, but complementary, strategies employed by Mittimatalingmiut (Pond Inlet Inuit) hunters during the floe-edge and ice free seasons, as well as during the transition between the two. Before break-up, the most frequent method employed in floe-edge and outpost camp hunts is an ambush or a sit-and-wait strategy. Interestingly, during the transition between floe-edge and complete open water, Pond Inlet Inuit utilized both sit-and-wait and pursuit hunting strategies to maximize their hunting opportunities.