Inuit spring hunting techniques and local knowledge of the ringed seal in Arctic Bay (Ikpiarjuk), Nunavut

  • Chris M. Furgal
  • Stuart Innes
  • Kit M. Kovacs


Inuit hunting techniques used to catch ringed seals (Phoca hispida) were observed April-June 1993 on the land-fast ice of Admiralty Inlet, Nunavut, and adjoining fjords and bays. In addition, a survey of hunting techniques and knowledge of ringed seal biology and behaviour was conducted in the community of Arctic Bay (Ikpiarjuk), Nunavut, January-February 1994. A total of 246 seal structures were found in 31 days of hunting and 34 successful kills were observed. An experienced Inuk hunter found subnivean structures by sight, by walking on drifts and by probing snowdrifts with a harpoon (unaaq). Most structures were found using subtle visual cues. Breaking through the roof of a lair was the most common hunting technique observed in this study. Pups captured in this manner were subsequently used to lure the mother back into the breathing hole where she was harpooned. Ringed seals were also hunted by a number of other methods that have been described previously in the literature. Respondents in the hunter survey indicated that the ringed seal was the most important animal used by Arctic Bay Inuit. They also reported a variety of biological findings about ringed seals including: size differences among seals in different regions of the pack ice; that adult male ringed seals (tiggak) emitted a strong, mustelid-like odour from December until late May or early June. Hunters also reported that males were occasionally caught when coming to retrieve pups. All respondents reported seeing increasing frequencies of liver abnormalities in their ringed seal catches.


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How to Cite
Furgal C. M., Innes S., & Kovacs K. M. (2002). Inuit spring hunting techniques and local knowledge of the ringed seal in Arctic Bay (Ikpiarjuk), Nunavut. Polar Research, 21(1), 1-16.
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