Bathurst

  • Herd size (2015): 8,200

There is no management board for this herd, but a Bathurst Caribou Advisory Committee has recently been established to collaboratively develop a management plan. The Committee also helps to support and implement a range plan for the herd developed  by a Working Group of 21 organizations including industry, environmental groups, Indigenous governments, renewable resource boards and territorial governments including representatives from Nunavut, NWT and northern Saskatchewan. The Bathurst herd has suffered the steepest and deepest decline of all the migratory barren-ground herds. It went from a high of 450,000 caribou in 1986 to an estimated 8,200 caribou in 2018, a decrease of more than 98%. The governments of Nunavut and NWT recently agreed to better work together to manage the Bathurst and Bluenose-East herds.

Hunting of this herd is now completely disallowed in the NWT. A mobile conservation zone has been set up that follows the movement of the herd, and no caribou hunting is allowed within that zone. Nunavut still allows for 30 animals a year to be hunted.

The relative importance of the various factors leading to this steep decline are still unclear. Natural cycles amplified by changes to habitat, climate, predation, and hunting are likely causes. One additional factor has recently emerged;  some cows fitted with tracking collars were observed to have moved to the neighboring Beverly/Ahiak herd’s calving ground in 2018 and 2019.

Related news

N.W.T. wolf cull 'inhumane and unnecessary,' says Łutsel K'e Dene First Nation

This news story quotes a submission by the Łutsel K'e Dene First Nation to an official request by the NWT and Tlicho governments for feedback on plans to cull wolves. The wolf-culling program is intended to help protect the Bluenose East and Bathurst caribou herds. Both of them have declined dramatically in the past few years. The First Nation's letter calls the wolf-culling plan "inhumane and unnecessary".
17 November 2020 | CBC North

N.W.T. harvesters will get more training to kill wolves, help caribou population

A story about the NWT and Tłı̨chǫ governments' plans to help train local harvesters to kills wolves. This is part of the attempt to reduce wolf predation on the Bathurst and Bluenose East caribou herds. At the moment only one person in theTłı̨chǫ comunities targets wolves.
28 August 2020 | CBC

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

Tlicho, N.W.T. govt's submit joint wolf management plan to support caribou recovery

A 2020 news story on a proposed new wolf management plan affecting the Bluenose-East and Bathurst herds.
3 February 2020 | CBC

NWT Budget 2020 Detail: What's new and what's changing

A 2020 news story on the new NWT budget. mentions funding for work on the Bathurst and Bluenose-East herds.
1 February 2020 | Cabin Radio

Where are the wolves? Satellite collaring planned for wolves on caribou winter range

a 2020 news story about collaring wolves associated with the Beverly/Ahiak, Bathurst and Bluenose-east herds.
31 January 2020 | CBC

Arctic Canada: Nunavut government asks to lower caribou hunt, which could impact local communities

A 2020 news story about the impacts of proposed changes to the total allowable harvest for Bluenose-East and Bathurst caribou herds. The story focuses on the Nunavut community of Kugluktuk.
13 January 2020 | CBC

Nunavut government asks to lower caribou hunt on Bluenose East herd, ban Bathurst harvest

A 2020 news story about the Nunavut government proposal to lower hunting quotas on the Bluenose-East herd, and eliminate the quota for the Bathurst herd. The story talks about community hardships that would result from the quota changes, and potential increased pressure on the Dolphin and Union herd.
13 January 2020 | CBC

N.W.T. releases plan to protect Bathurst caribou, but some fear it's too late

After years of compromise, discussion and debate, a range plan to protect the dwindling Bathurst caribou herd's lands from overdevelopment was approved by the Northwest Territories government this week.
23 August 2019 | CBC

Canadian taxpayers on hook for $61 million for road to open up mining in Arctic

A 2019 magazine article on potential impacts on caribou from the Gray’s bay road and port project. Potential impacts on the Bathurst, Bluenose-East, and Dolphin and Union herds are mentioned.
15 August 2019 | The Narwhal

Tradition versus technology: Northerners debate use of drones in caribou hunting

New N.W.T. wildlife regulations in effect since July 1 defer decision on drone use
8 July 2019 | CBC

Nunavut, N.W.T. team up on joint caribou management

A 2019 news story on the agreement between the NWT and nunavut governments to better manage the Bathurst and Bluenose-East
1 May 2019 | Nunatsiaq

Killing wolves won't save caribou herds, experts say

A 2019 news story quoting two biologists who argue that wolf predation is not the major problem in driving the current caribou declines
27 February 2019 | CBC

'Deadly serious': 2 caribou herds shrink by half in latest count

A 2018 news story about the rapid decline of the Bathurst and Bluenose-East herds.
20 November 2018 | CBC

Related resources

RECOVERY STRATEGY FOR BARREN-GROUND CARIBOU In the Northwest Territories

This 70-page recovery strategy for barren-gound caribou in the Northwest Territories lays out plans to help the eight herds covered by the strategy. The strategy was required by the NWT Species at Risk Act after the barren-ground caribou were listed as "threatened" in 2018. The governments and co-management boards that developed the strategy have until April 9, 2021 to agree on the implementation of the recovery strategy. 
Conference of Management Authorities (2020)

Contaminants in Arctic Caribou Synopsis Report 2019-20

A 9 page synopsis report of the Arctic Caribou Contaminant Monitoring Program. The program covers several Arctic herds. It concludes, "Levels of most contaminants measured in caribou kidneys were not of concern toxicologically, although renal [kidney] mercury and cadmium concentrations may cause some concern for human health depending on the quantity of organs consumed. Yukon Health has advised restricting intake of kidney and liver from Yukon caribou, the recommended maximum varying depending on herd (e.g. a maximum of 25 Porcupine cariboukidneys/year). The health advisory confirms that heavy metals are very low in the meat (muscle) from caribouand this remains a healthy food choice. There have been no health advisories issued for caribou in NWT or Nunavut."
Northern contaminants program (2020)

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)

Łutsël K’é Dene First Nation’s Caribou Stewardship Plan

A 47-page 2020 Caribou stewardship plan from the Łutsël K’é Dene First Nation (NWT). The “Yúnethé Xá Ɂetthën Hádı” plan covers the Bathurst, Beverly, Ahiak, and Qamanirjuaq herds.
Łutsël K’é Dene First Nation (2020)

How we count caribou: calving ground photo survey

This video explains the Calving Ground Photo Survey method used to count Bathurst and Bluenose-East caribou.
Government of the Northwest Territories (2019)

Usage: Non-commercial with attribution
Format: video

BathurstBluenose East

BATHURST CARIBOU RANGE PLAN SUMMARY

This 8-page document from 2019 is a simple summary of the Bathurst caribou range plan.
Government of the Northwest Territories (2019)

Bathhurst Caribou: Range Plan

This lengthy range plan for the Bathurst Herd includes a summary in French.
Government of the Northwest Territories (2019)

Usage: Non-commercial with attribution
Format: pdf

Bathurst

WRRB Reasons for Decision Final Report – Kǫ̀ k’èetı̀ ekwǫ̀ (Bathurst Caribou) Herd

A 2019 report from the Wek’èezhìı Renewable Resources Board detailing its response to management plans for the Bathurst herd put forward by the Tlicho Government and the Government of the Northwest Territories.
Wekʼèezhìi Renewable Resources Board (WRRB) (2019)

Fire and lichen dynamics in the Taiga Shield of the Northwest Territories and implications for barren‐ground caribou winter forage

A 2019 academic paper on the effects of fires on the quality of forage in the winter range of the Bathurst herd in the NWT
University of North British Columbia (UNBC) (2019)

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Format: web

Bathurst

Bathurst range plan (draft) - What we heard

A 21-page 2019 report on the results of the public engagement by the Government of the Northwest Terriotries on the Bathurst caribou herd range plan. The document summarizes the views that were heard but does not quote them.
Government of the Northwest Territories (2019)

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Format: pdf

Bathurst

Bathurst mobile conservation zone

A web page that explains and updates the mobile conservation zone
Government of the Northwest Territories (2019)

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Format: web

Bathurst

Tactical departures and strategic arrivals: Divergent effects of climate and weather on caribou spring migrations

A 2019 academic paper that looks at factors affecting caribou migration timing and speed. The paper concludes that  later arrival at calving grounds might indicate that females are in worse condition, and that calving and calf survival rates might be lower.
(2019)

Undermining subsistence: Barren-ground caribou in a “tragedy of open access”

This 2018 academic paper argues that human disturbance, not subsistence hunting is the prime driver of caribou decline. It focuses primarily on the Bathurst Caribou Herd, shared between the NWT and Nunavut
Various (2018)

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Format: web

Barren-groundBathurst

Barren-ground Caribou Surveys - English

A 1':25" 2018 video with subtitles from the Government of the Northwest Territories showing and explaining the aerial surveys of barren-ground caribou in 2018.
Government of the Northwest Territories (2018)

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Format: video

BathurstBluenose East

Boots on the Ground Caribou Monitoring Program

a 2':49" 2018 video that talks about the "boots on the ground" program to monitor Bathurst caribou, a partnership between the Tli'cho government and the Government of the Northwest Territories.
Government of the Northwest Territories (2018)

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Format: video

Bathurst

Wolf Technical Feasibility Assessment: Options for Managing Wolves on the Range of the Bathurst Barren-ground Caribou Herd

A 2017 assessment of options for wolf control on the range of the Bathurst caribou herd. Assessment criteria include humaneness, efficiency, effectiveness, and risks.
Wekʼèezhìi Renewable Resources Board (WRRB) (2017)

Report on the Bathurst Caribou Range Plan Traditional Knowledge Workshop 2016

Compendium of Indigenous knowledge centred around the Bathurst caribou herd, including perspectives of First Nations, Metis, and Inuit. “The purpose of the TK Workshop was to bring together TK experts from across the range of the Bathurst herd to discuss key issues, themes, concerns, and understandings related to the Bathurst caribou and their habitat.”
Government of the Northwest Territories (2016)

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Format: pdf

BathurstPeople

We Live Here for Caribou

This 2016 report called “We Live Here For Caribou” is a medium length report on the Indigenous knowledge of elders and harvesters from Wekweti, a Tli’cho community in the Northwest Territories.It covers the Bathurst caribou herd and has long sections on changes in caribou that have been observed, including changes as a result of development. It concludes, “Contributors to the report unanimously identify the establishment of large-scale mines and associated industrial activities on the Bathurst caribou migration route and feeding grounds as the main factor behind caribou health defects and changes to their behaviour and migration.”
Tłı̨chǫ Government (2016)

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Format: pdf

Bathurst

caribou and community well-being (Gjoa Haven)

A web page with a variety of other resources centred on the link between the people of Gjoa Haven (Nunavut) and caribou. Resources on the page range from academic papers to a hand-drawn ink calendar showing the phases of local Inuit use of caribou.
Straight Up North (2016)

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Format: web

Beverly and QaminirjuaqBarren-groundAhiakBathurstLorillardWager BayPeople

Bathurst Caribou Range Plan Interim Discussion Document

A long 2016 document that was used as background for the development of the Bathurst Herd Range Plan. It includes a report from an Indigenous knowledge workshop on the herd. It also contains maps of current human disturbance of the herd, and projections for future human disturbance under different development scenarios.
Mackenzie Valley Review Board (2016)

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Format: pdf

Bathurst

Joint Management Proposal for Bathhurst Caribou

A 2015 joint management proposal for the Bathurst caribou herd developed by the Tlicho Government and the government of the Northwest Territories. The plan covers 2016 to 2019, and recommends no harvesting of the herd, wolf control, and better monitoring of the herd
Wekʼèezhìi Renewable Resources Board (WRRB) (2015)

Weather-based Indices of Parasitic Fly Activity and Abundance for the Bathurst Caribou Post-calving and Summer Range: Users Guide

A specialized 2014 report on the linkages between climate and levels of insects that bother caribou on the post-caling/summer range of the Bathurst Caribou herd.
Government of the Northwest Territories (2014)

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Format: pdf

BathurstNatural factors

Taking Care of Caribou: The Cape Bathurst, Bluenose-West, and Bluenose-East Barren-ground Caribou Herds Management Plan

This 2014 management plan for three herds (Bluenose-East and West and Cape Bathurst) was created by the Advisory Committee for Cooperation on Wildlife Management (NWT). It says “While the immediate need for the plan was in response to reported declines in the herds, the intent is for the plan to address caribou management and stewardship over the long term. This plan was developed in consultation with most of the communities that harvest from the three herds.”
Government of the Northwest Territories (2014)

The Cape Bathurst, Bluenose-West, and Bluenose-East Barren-ground Caribou Herds Management Plan

There is no management board for this herd, but there is a management plan. The plan was prepared under the authority of the Advisory Committee for Cooperation on Wildlife Management. This group brings together representatives of several renewable resources boards and committees in the NWT and Nunavut to address cross-boundary wildlife issues
Government of the Northwest Territories (2014)

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Format: pdf

BathurstBluenose WestBluenose EastBarren-ground

Migratory tundra caribou seasonal and annual distribution relative to Thaidene Nene

Brief 2011 report on the use of Thaidene Nene National Park (NWT) by the Ahiak and Bathurst herds
Parks Canada (2011)


Format: pdf

AhiakBathurst

Biomagnification of Perfluorinated Compounds in a Remote Terrestrial Food Chain: Lichen-Caribou-Wolf

The biomagnification behavior of perfluorinated carboxylates (PFCAs) and perfluorinated sulfonates (PFSAs) was studied in terrestrial food webs consisting of lichen and plants, caribou, and wolves from two remote northern areas in Canada. Six PFCAs with eight to thirteen carbons and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) were regularly detected in all species.
(2011)

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Format: pdf

PorcupineBathurstContaminants

Polychlorinated dibenzodioxins, dibenzofurans and non-ortho substituted polychlorinated biphenyls in caribou (Rangifer tarandus) from the Canadian Arctic

The presence of contaminants in the Arctic environment has raised concerns regarding levels in wildlife and possible effects on the health of wildlife populations. In addition, contaminants in wild foods are of particular concern to those people who rely on these foodstuffs for a significant portion of their diet. Among the most toxic contaminants found in the environment are the polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins (PCDDs), polychlorinated dibenzofurans (PCDFs) and non-ortho substituted polychlorinated biphenyls (NOPCBs).
(1995)

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Format: pdf

BathurstSouthampton IslandContaminants

Barren-ground Caribou in the NWT: Bathurst herd

This is a two-page fact sheet on the herd from the Government of the Northwest Territories. Undated but recent.
Government of the Northwest Territories


Format: pdf

Bathurst

FACT SHEET: Satellite collaring barren ground caribou

A 2-page fact sheet from the Government of the Northwest Territories explaining the use of radio collars on caribou.
Government of the Northwest Territories

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Format: pdf

Beverly and QaminirjuaqBathurstBluenose WestBluenose East

Bathurst Caribou Range Plan - Response

A response by Canadian Arctic Resources Committee to the Bathurst Herd Range Plan
Canadian Arctic Resources Committee (CARC)

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Format: web

BathurstManaging huntingManaging predatorsRange management

Enhanced North Slave Wolf Harvest Incentive Program

The enhanced North Slave wolf harvest program run by the Government of the Northwest Territories in the range of the Bathurst and Bluenose-East caribou herds.
Government of the Northwest Territories