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

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

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

Genetic legacy of last glaciation influences reindeer's seasonal migrations

This news release is about a new study that cross referenced GPS tracked movements and genetics of caribou, and found genes thought to be associated with migratory behaviour. The genetic differences are thought to spring from a genetic division during the last ice age, when populations were physically separated by ice sheets. The study authors say this has implications for possible loss of migratory behaviours if genes are lost through shrinking populations.
11 February 2022 | Science Daily

Ulukhaktok asked not to hunt caribou until July 15

The Hunters and Trappers Association in the Victoria Island community of Ulukhaktok (NWT) has asked people to voluntarily hold off on hunting the Dolphin and Union caribou herd until calving is over this year. The unique herd migrates across the sea ice between the mainland and Victoria Island. At last count, the herd was down to about 4,000 animals. 
13 April 2021 | Cabin Radio (NWT)

Kitikmeot caribou herd survey complete; interim hunting limit decision still under review

This nes story talk about a new survey being done on the Dolphin and Union Caribou herd. it also mentions that a proposed harvest limit on the herd is still not confirmed.
15 December 2020 | Nunavut 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

MUSKOX AND CARIBOU HEALTH MONITORING PROGRAM - activity update June 2021

This 12-page document gives brief summaries about work on muskox and caribou in the central Arctic region of Canada (communities of Ulukhaktok, Kugluktuk and Cambridge Bay). The research centres on the health of the two species, and includes projects to gather Indigenous knowledge on the Dolphin and Union herd, and disease prevalence in the Bluenose East herd. The research is not yet complete so few conclusions are drawn.
(2021)

Usage: Non-commercial with attribution
Format: web

Barren-groundBluenose EastDolphin and UnionNatural factors

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

Ice breakers in the Arctic: Let’s talk Inuit safety

A commentary co-written by the Wildlife Conservation Society and the Ekaluktutiak Hunters and Trappers Organization about an initiative to avoid or minimize the impact of icebreakers in Arctic Canada. The Proactive Vessel Management initiative in Cambridge Bay (Ikaluktutiak) used information from local people to create something called a "Notice to Mariners" that gives people in icebreaking boats advice of how best to avoid times or places when local people or caribou are crossing the sea ice, or to minimize any threat posed by icebreaking.
wildlife conservation society/Ekaluktutiak HTO (2020)

Usage: Non-commercial with attribution
Format: web

PearyDolphin and UnionRange managementClimate changeHuman disturbance

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