Dolphin and Union

Genetic studies have shown the herd to be distinct from both Peary caribou, and from barren-ground caribou. The animals in this herd are slightly larger and darker than the Peary caribou.

The herd migrates between Victoria Island and the adjacent Arctic mainland twice a year, going to the mainland in the fall and back to the island in the spring. The crossing distance varies, depending on the routes taken, but is typically between 40 and 50 kilometres. Some members of the herd are sometimes also found on smaller islands near Victoria Island. 

The management plan for the herd says the largest risk to its future is the sea ice that the caribou use to migrate. That sea ice is changing as the region warms. New ice is forming more than ten days later in the fall than it did in the early 1980s. Icebreaking is also a concern, as vessel traffic in the region increases. Local Inuit say they’re seeing an increase in the numbers of drowned caribou from the herd, sometimes numbering in the hundreds. Some communities say that shipping in the strait crossed by the caribou should be restricted to the open water season.

Competition with muskoxen is identified by local people as a potential source of decline for this herd. They also mention the habitat destruction caused by an overabundance of geese in the area may be affecting the food available for caribou. Local people have also reported seeing more diseased caribou. Some new parasites have sprung up on the caribou’s range, such as caribou lungworm, a parasite not reported on Victoria Island until 2010.

Several communities hunt the caribou from this herd, but harvest levels are uncertain, so the level of risk from harvesting is also uncertain. However, the latest survey report on the caribou by the Government of Nunavut said, "Harvest appeared to be a significant source of mortality for DU caribou from 2015 to 2019, with 14 of 43 mortalities of collared caribou having occurred due to harvesting." In September 2020, the Government of Nunavut set a "total allowable harvest" level for local communities at 42 animals.

Related news

Hunting restrictions imposed after another Nunavut caribou herd dwindles

This news story talks about hunting restrictions being placed on the Dolphin and Union herd in Nunavut. The unique herd that migrates between the Victoria island and the mainland saw its population drop to about 4,000 in the last (2018) survey. The new quota allows people from local communities to take 42 caribou. Last year, just one community took as many as 200.
12 November 2020 | cbc north

Nunavut premier hears discontent over caribou quotas and meat sales at NTI meeting

News story from a meeting of the Nunavut land claim organization, Nunavut Tunggavik Incorporated. It cover discussions over quotas for caribou herds, and about the sustainability of selling of caribou meat between regions in Nunavut. Nunavut's premier points out that the right to sell or barter wild food is written into the Nunavut claim, so it is not something his government can regulate. 
21 October 2020 | Nunatsiaq news

Nunavut government limits hunting of Dolphin and Union caribou

The Nunavut government has restricted hunting of the Dolphin and Union herd to 42 animals this year, due to steep declines in the herd's size. The herd is classified as endangered by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada.
10 September 2020 | Nunatsiaq News

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

Related resources

Population Estimate of the Dolphin and Union Caribou herd (Rangifer tarandus groenlandicus x pearyi) Coastal Survey, October 2018 and Demographic Indicators

This 49 page (in English) report contains executive summaries in Inuktitut (both syllabics and western orthography). It shows that the Dophin and Union herd has declined to an estimated 4,105 in 2018, down from 17,000 in 2015. The Dophin and Union herd is unique, being neither barren-ground nor Peary caribou. It migrates between Victoria Island and the mainland. 
Government of Nunavut (2020)

Usage: Non-commercial with attribution
Format: pdf

Dolphin and UnionClimate changeHunting

Inuktitut summary report on contaminants in the Dolphin and Union caribou herd

A two-page summary report in Inuktitut on contaminants in the Dolphin and Union caribou herd
(2019)

Usage: Non-commercial with attribution
Format: pdf

Dolphin and UnionContaminants

2019 report to the hunters of the Dolphin and Union herd

Two-page summary report to hunters of the Dolphin and Union caribou herd on research into contaminants in the herd
(2019)

Usage: Non-commercial with attribution
Format: pdf

Dolphin and UnionContaminants

Management Plan for the Dolphin and Union Caribou (Rangifer tarandus groenlandicus x pearyi) in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut

This long management plan for Dolphin and Union Caribou is a joint effort between the NWT and Nunavut governments in cooperation with the Canadian government and several other organizations from both Nunavut and the Inuvialuit settlement area. It details threats and proposed management actions.
Government of the Northwest Territories (2018)

Usage: Non-commercial with attribution
Format: pdf

Dolphin and Union

Fall Population Estimate of the Dolphin and Union Caribou herd (Rangifer tarandus groenlandicus x pearyi) Victoria Island, October 2015 And Demographic Population Indicators 2015-2017

2018 Nunavut government assessment of the state of the Dolphin and Union caribou herd
(2018)

Usage: Non-commercial with attribution
Format: pdf

Dolphin and Union

Management Plan for Dolphin and Union Caribou in the NWT and Nunavut

This long 2018 management plan for Dolphin and Union Caribou is a joint effort between the NWT and Nunavut governments in cooperation with the Canadian government and several other organizations from both Nunavut and the Inuvialuit settlement area.  It details threats and proposed management actions.
Government of the Northwest Territories (2018)

COSEWIC Assessment and Status Report on the Caribou (Rangifer tarandus) Dolphin and Union population in Canada 2017

Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS) (2017)

Usage: Non-commercial with attribution
Format: web

Dolphin and Union