Baffin Island

HERD SIZE (2014): 4,652

This herd is limited to Baffin Island, in Nunavut, and the adjacent Prince Charles Island. A management plan for the herd produced in 2018 by the Nunavut Government estimated the herd size had fallen by 95% from a 1991 high. Although it treated an one herd, evidence from both Inuit qaujimajatuqangit (the system of values, beliefs and knowledge gained through living and hunting on the land over many generations) and scientific observations suggest there may be 3-5 distinct herds on the island. The management plan noted that the numbers in the north of Baffin Island were particularly low, leaving the caribou vulnerable to local extirpation.  Like other barren ground caribou herds the herd numbers go through natural cycles over several decades. In response to the current low numbers, the government has set a total allowable harvest of 250 animals per year.

Related news

Are Baffin Island’s caribou numbers growing? Researchers plan to find out

A new count of Baffin Island caribou is to be carried out this year. The aerial survey will look to confirm anecdotal reports and smaller surveys indicating that the herd on the island is growing. The last major survey of the herd in 2014 indicated that ti had shrunk dramatically to about 4,600.
4 March 2024 | Nunatsiaq News

GN closes Baffin Island caribou harvest

Brief news story announcing the closure of Baffin Island caribou harvest for the year. The annual harvest is capped at 400 animals.
13 February 2024 | Nunatsiaq News

Arctic caribou on thin ice: climate change threats revealed

This brief article provide a summary of research into the impacts of climate change on Peary caribou. There is also a mention of caribou on Baffin Island. The research found that Peary caribou, that migrate aross sea ice, face challenges as the sea ice progressively thins and diminishes. 
23 January 2024 | Sigma bulletin

Iqaluit’s caribou harvest for 2023-24 is closed, GN announces

A brief story noting that the community of Iqaluit (capital nad largest community in Nunavut) has reached its caribou hunting quota of 74 animals for the year, and no more caribou hunting will be permitted for the Baffin Island community. The last population estimate for the Baffin herd in 2014 put the number at 4,652. 
21 August 2023 | Nunatsiaq news

Baffin caribou harvest now closed, says Environment Department

A brief story about the end of the caribou season on Baffin Island. The Nunavut territorial government set a quota of 350 animals per year on the island herd.
1 May 2023 | Nunatsiaq news

Nunavut flips stance on caribou protection again, now supports development ban on calving grounds

The Government of Nunavut made a submission to the Nunavut Land Use Plan in which it supports banning mining development in caribou calving grounds, and taking measures to seasonally limit industrial activity in other areas important to caribou. The story notes that the government is not backing proposals by some Inuit organizations to impose mobile caribou protection measures, such as those used in the Northwest Territories to limit hunting of the Bathurst caribou herd.
11 April 2023 | cbc north

Baffin Island caribou harvest closes for season in Pond Inlet

A news story announcing that the community of Pond Inlet (on Northern Baffin Island, Nunavut) has reached it's total allowable harvest of 46 caribou for this season. The season ends in June 2023.
8 January 2023 | Nunatsiaq News

QIA says Nunavut land-use plan doesn’t go far enough to protect caribou

The Qikiqtani Inuit Association (the organization that holds land rights for Inuit in the Baffin region of Nunavut) is urging more prtoections for caribou in the Nunavut Land Use Plan. The land use plan is in its final hearing stage. The plan has been under development for several years and will influence the future of development in the territory. 
18 November 2022 | Nunatsiaq news

Diamond mine proposal draws concerns for wildlife, environment

Caribou calving areas on the south of Baffin Island (Nunavut) could be affected by a proposed diamond mine in the area. The DeBeers mine could open as soon as 2026 if granted regulatory approval. The number of caribou on the island has shrunk by an estimated 95% since highs in the 1990s..
14 October 2022 | Nunatsiaq News

Increase in caribou harvest for Baffin region to continue for next 8 years

The Nunavut government has approved a plan to increase the number of Baffin Island caribou that can be killed. The hunting quota for the caribou goes up by 100 this year (from 250 to 350) then continues to increase by 50 per year "for the next eight years or until new information becomes available requiring changes". The quota increase is based on an assumption that the caribou will otherwise outstrip the recovery of lichen, a major food source for the caribou.
25 July 2022 | cbc north

Baffin wildlife board makes case for increasing caribou harvest

 A wildlife board representing Inuit in Northeast Nunavut (Qikiqtaaluk Wildlife Board) wants to see an increase in caribou quotas on Baffin Island. The number of caribou on Baffin Island has shrunk drastically in recent years. Local Inuit say the caribou are now increasing, and Inuit knowledge tells them the herds will outstrip the available forage if more are not taken. Meanwhile, Inuit in the northwest of Nunavut want to see the Dolphin and Union herd move from "special concern" to "endangered" under the federal species at risk legislation. That herd was estimated to number about 4,000 in 2018.
17 June 2022 | cbc north

Caribou protection called most problematic area of draft land-use plan

The news story says "The Nunavut Planning Commission says caribou protection is the top concern it hears about when it comes to its draft land-use plan." Hearings on the land use plan are scheduled until January 2023.
12 May 2022 | Nunatsiaq News

The biggest land use plan in the world: how Nunavut is putting mining and conservation on the map

This longer story is about the Nunavut land use plan. The draft plan designates key caribou habitat such as calving areas as "limited use" effectively closing them off to industrial development such as mining. The plan has been in development for fifteen years, and is now considered close to completion.
18 January 2022 | The Narwhal

Decades-long plan to protect caribou in Nunavut nearing completion

An online article and associated radio broadcast about the near-completion on the Nunavut Land Use Plan, and its implications for caribou conservation.
13 October 2021 | CBC radio

Strategy to help NWT’s beleaguered caribou is released

A news story about a new recovery strategy for barren-ground caribou herds in the NWT.  The strategy was developed by group of governments and regulatory boards, collectively known as the Conference of Management Authorities. The recovery strategy will guide how all NWT herds of barren-ground caribou are managed, with the exception of the Porcupine herd.
10 July 2020 | cabin radio

Nunavut government appeals decision to halt case against Igloolik hunter

The Government of Nunavut says that the territory’s chief justice “erred” when he let an Igloolik hunter off the hook for illegally harvesting a caribou during the 2015 Baffin Island caribou ban.
30 July 2019 | Nunatsiaq News

Starvation after weather event killed caribou on remote Arctic island

Icy crust on snow may have prevented caribou from digging for lichen
2 February 2017 | CBC

Related resources

Closure of Baffin Island Caribou harvest

A brief news release from the government of Nunavut announcing the closure of hunting for caribou on Baffin Island as hunters have used the 250 tags in the total allowable harvest. The last population estimate for the Baffin herd in 2014 put the number at 4,652. 

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Format: web

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caribou contaminant report 2020-21

This is a report that covers all of the results from a project to monitor contaminants in caribou. Some tests could not be done due to lack of lab capacity udirng the pandemic. The report concludes that: "Levels of most contaminants measured in caribou tissues are not of concern, although kidney mercury and cadmium concentrations may cause some concern for human health depending on the quantity of organs consumed. Caribou meat (muscle) does not accumulate high levels of contaminants and is a healthy food choice. Concentrations of PFASs and PBDEs are low with respect to potential toxicity to caribou or those consuming caribou. Adults consuming Sanikiluaq reindeer are recommended to consume a maximum of seven whole livers each year due to PFOS levels in those livers."    

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Format: pdf

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Renal trace elements in barren-ground caribou subpopulations: Temporal trends and differing effects of sex, age and season

An academic paper that looks at the level of some metals in kidneys of some northern caribou. It found that copper levels are decreasing in the caribou kidneys, possibly due to changes in what caribou are eating. The paper concludes, "Declining Cu concentrations in caribou are of concern as low levels could potentially negatively affect reproduction and therefore caribou at a population level."
Science of the Total Environment (2020)

Population structure of caribou in an ice-bound archipelago

This 2018 academic paper suggests that, based on genetics, the Baffin Island population of caribou should be treated as a separate “designatable unit” under the classification system for the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). This would have implications for management of caribou on the island.

Usage: Non-commercial with attribution
Format: pdf

Baffin IslandRange management

Local knowledge to enhance wildlife population health surveillance: Conserving muskoxen and caribou in the Canadian Arctic

This 2018 academic paper argues for the value of using local knowledge in monitoring caribou populations.

Format: web

Baffin Island

Working together for Baffin Island Caribou

A brief 2013 workshop report which examines the causes and impacts of the decline of caribou on Baffin Island, and suggests some management measures.
Government of Nunavut (2013)