Food Use Of Wild Species

A broad range of species of wildlife are contained in Arctic ecosystems. Many of these are used by Arctic residents for food, and in particular by indigenous peoples resident in the Arctic. Although indigenous peoples used large quantities of wildlife foods in the past, the forces of dietary change, most notably the

A Cree woman (Elizabeth Brien) picks cranberries near her camp, Québec, Canadian Subarctic.

Copyright Bryan and Cherry Alexander Photography

A Cree woman (Elizabeth Brien) picks cranberries near her camp, Québec, Canadian Subarctic.

Copyright Bryan and Cherry Alexander Photography availability of market food, have resulted in the diets of contemporary Arctic residents containing a smaller proportion and fewer species of wildlife than when food subsistence was entirely derived from hunting-gathering-fishing activities. To illustrate this point, recent studies of indigenous peoples in the Canadian Arctic defined the number of species currently known and used by community residents, albeit some of them infrequently. Research on Dene/Métis, Yukon First Nations, and Inuit communities revealed that 62, 53, and 129 species of animals, including fish, were used, respectively; plant species reported were 40, 48, and 42, respectively, in the three communities.

Broad food group categories of species used as food are sea mammals (seals, whales, walrus), land animals (e.g., caribou, moose, hare), birds (e.g., geese, ducks, grouse, gulls), fish (e.g., char, salmon, trout, cod, halibut), and shellfish (mussels, shrimp, clams, scallops) as well as plants (seaweed, berries, greens). Although the varieties of species used differ, the same families/species of most Arctic wildlife animals and plants used for food are similar across the circumpolar Arctic. However, patterns of harvest, preparation, and use of wildlife vary from region to region. Sea mammals are used primarily by the circumpolar Inuit, who usually reside in sea coastal areas, particularly favorite items being rich in fat (blubber, muktuk, seal flippers, etc.). The Inuit are also known to prefer animal and fish tissue foods in the raw state; however, most First

Nations (Indian) people cook all of their wildlife animal foods. All indigenous peoples are recognized for their preferences to consume all edible parts of animals harvested.

Seasonality is another factor affecting the availability and quantities of wildlife animals and plants used as food. Larger quantities are used during summer and autumn when animals can most easily be hunted and plants collected. In one Canadian Inuit community of approximately 400 people, the total quantities of wildlife animals and plants consumed varied from 100 kg per day in the low season to 180 kg per day in the high season, with a six-season average being 130 kg per day.

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