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Cree Trappers’ Association launch new mobile app to track harvests and climate change

BY Ben Powless Nov 19, 2020

The Cree Trappers’ Association recently launched a cell phone application that the CTA hopes will catch on among hunters and trappers across Eeyou Istchee, and even expand nationally. 

The CTA Wildlife app is now available for Android and iPhone users to download. It allows hunters and trappers to directly report their harvests and a range of other information, from tracking wildlife to ice conditions to climate change. 

“In the recent years, we’ve been seeing a decline in people reporting harvesting, and we wanted to find ways to initiate the importance of reporting,” said the CTA’s Thomas Stevens. “So we decided why not develop an app where the hunter or trapper can report right from their camp?” 

The CTA maintains a harvesting database, but the idea of developing an app that could be used by anyone in the bush at any time began floating around five years ago. Currently hunters and trappers are asked to report to CTA offices, but according to Stevens, there’s been a decline in people reporting in recent years. 

“The good thing here is even if you don’t have cell service you can upload the file when you come home, or if you have service all the data from each day of hunting can be uploaded directly to our geoportal,” explained Stevens. 

CTA employees began using and testing the app in the summer. 

“I started using it out for a week in the bush,” Stevens said. “I was reporting, I was fishing and setting nets, at the same time trying to harvest a moose. Every time I checked my net I would write down ‘I caught 10 sturgeon,’ and I would put it in the app itself for fish harvest.” 

Beyond tracking individual harvests, the app also allows for wildlife observations for endangered species, including polar bears, wolverines and caribou, and what herd they belong to. As well, the app can record observations of climate change, ice conditions, snowfall and bird migration. 

According to Ryan Erless, Director of Community Services for Waskaganish, there’s a definite need for this data. 

“We’ve been saying all this time because of climate change we need to have better technology. Everyone has smart phones; an app should be created to know the ice conditions wherever they are,” Erless noted.

“With the diversion of [the Rupert River], sometimes the ice and water are unpredictable,” he added. “We’ve had land users talk about before and after diversion how there’s places it never froze before, and places that used to freeze that don’t now.”

All of this data also helps the CTA track changes and trends that are only visible over many years of observations. 

“We control the database, so whenever we need to know the numbers of beavers trapped or moose harvested, we have the documents going back to 1980. We can see the trends with moose – this year we only saw 400 or 500 moose killed, for example,” Stevens said. 

Similarly, data on climate change and wildlife observations helps them in discussions with governments with being able to say, “Here’s what our hunters and trappers have been telling us,” Stevens explained. 

Since the app launched, the CTA has received calls from the Yukon and Quebec governments inquiring about the possibility of using an app like this in other jurisdictions. Stevens said the governments were surprised they had developed the application, though hunters and trappers nationally had many questions about climate change and adaptation for which the app could be of benefit.

The association is promoting the app on Facebook and other social media, as well as through their local administrators. Stevens said older generations may not be as comfortable using the technology, so they still encourage people to come into their offices to report or to ask questions about the app.

“We want to be there to help hunters and trappers,” said Stevens. “The younger generation is used to technology and cell phones, we’re hoping to adapt to what they’re seeing in the territories.” 

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Ben Powless is a Kanien'kehá:ka and Anishnabek writer and photographer, currently living in Ottawa. He has a degree in Human Rights, Indigenous and Environmental Studies from Carleton University.