Eastern Migratory

Cape ChurchillGeorge RiverLeaf RiverSouthern Hudson Bay

The 2017 report of the Committee on the Status of Wildlife in Canada estimated the total population of eastern migratory caribou 170,636 mature animals (not the total population) and says there has been an 80% overall decline in number over three generations (18-21 years). Most of the remaining Eastern Migratory caribou are in the Leaf River herd.

Eastern migratory caribou range from around Hudson bay, across the Ungava peninsula in Nunavik (northern Quebec) and into Nunatsiavut (northern Labrador). They move from wintering grounds in the spring to calve, generally closer to the coast, then move back again in the fall. Although they migrate, they are not barren-ground caribou, but woodland caribou. 

The eastern migratory caribou designation covers four subpopulations (or herds).

  • The Cape Churchill herd occupies part of the Manitoba coastline on Hudson Bay.
  • The Southern Hudson Bay herd overlaps slightly with the Cape Churchill herd, but is mostly found further south along the coastal Manitoba - Ontario border.
  • The Leaf River herd is on the Ungava Peninsula of northern Quebec, and sometimes overlaps with the range of the George River herd that occupies parts of Quebec and Labrador.
  • The George River herd occupies parts of Quebec and Labrador.

 

Related news

Nearly $4.8 million to track migratory caribou in the context of climate change

A news release announcing multi-million dollar funding that will sponsor a project to research migratory caribou on the Ungava peninsula in Nunavik (Quebec). The "Caribou Ungava" project has been active since 2009; the new funding will take it to 2029. The project is to focus on five main areas of research: 1) the dynamics and connectivity of migratory caribou populations with forest and mountain caribou populations; 2) mitigation of the impacts of territorial development; 3) determinants of habitat use and change; 4) health indicators of caribou and their boreal and northern competitors; 5) the ecology of black bear and musk ox interacting with migratory and expanding caribou on the Ungava Peninsula.
10 May 2024 | laval university

The Double-Edged Sword of Genetic Diversity in Caribou

A study of caribou genetics finds that "caribou maintain a high level of genetic diversity". This could be both a good thing and a bad thing. Genetic diversity can help species adapt. But when population numbers are low, genes that might harm a herd's ability to survive can become more common in a population. 
29 February 2024 | trent university

Quebec Cree and Innu leaders agree to reduce caribou harvest after summer wildfires

Cree and Innu leaders are reducing the number of caribou that Innu hunters can harvest from the Leaf River herd on Cree lands to 50, from a previously agreed figure of 300. The reduction is due to concerns about the impacts of recent forest fires in the herd's range. "...we must offer the caribou the opportunity to recover and adapt, especially amid growing climate challenges." said Chief Daisy House, of the Cree community of Chisasibi.The Leaf River herd numbers about 190,000 animals, down from imore than 600,000 in 2000.  
26 January 2024 | cbc north

Elder passing on traditional caribou hide scraping with grandmother's tool

Web story and also 10:39 audio piece about an Innu woman who is passing on the skills of prepring a caribou hide to students at a school in Sheshatshiu in Labrador. in the audio you hear the voices of the instructor and students. People in the community traditionally hunted the George River herd, but that herd has declined by 98% since 2001, and now sits at about 7,200 according to the latest count. The caribou skin used by the class came from Quebec.  
24 April 2023 | CBC

The (re)naming of caribou

This magazine article (based on a paper by the same author) suggests that dividing caribou into more subspecies would help to recognize and conserve their biodiversity.
19 December 2022 | Canadian Geographic

Valérie Courtois on what she hopes will come out of COP15: “to save the world”

A feature article on Valérie Courtois, Director of the Indigenous Leadership Initiative. The article talks about the "COP 15" meeting of the United Nations Convention on Bioversity, but also focuses on the decline of the George River caribou herd, noting that climate change and industrial development on the herds range may affect its ability to recover.
12 December 2022 | Canadian Geographic

The George River caribou herd is still vulnerable — but the newest census has cause for optimism

A news story based on a release from the government of Newfoundland nad Labrador showing that the George River herd has declined again after a slight rise in numbers two years ago. The story notes that despite the decline in numbers, more adult caribou were present in the last count, and that is some cause for optimism about the herd's future.
28 November 2022 | cbc

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

Cree and Innu sign agreement over caribou harvest in Cree territory

A news story about the agreement between Cree and Innu First Nations allowing Innu communities to hunt caribou on Cree territory. The Innu communities can take 2300 caribou this year under the terms of the agreement. the caribou come from the Leaf River herd. The George River herd on which the Innu communities had previously relied is at only one percent of it's peak recoreded population in 1990, and hunting the herd is banned. "For us, this community hunt will not only meet a need for our Elders' food security, but also perpetuate a sharing relationship that dates back to time immemorial," said Chief Mike McKenzie, Chief of the Innu community of Uashat Mak Mani-utenam and spokesperson for the nine Innu communities.
31 January 2022 | CBC North

Caribou are vanishing at an alarming rate. Is it too late to save them?

A magazine-length article giving an overview of some of the challenges facing caribou in Canada, and the impacts of caribou decline. It includes both barren-ground and woodland caribou.
7 September 2021 | Canadian Geographic

Nunavik pushes for its right to manage and harvest region’s caribou

The organization that represents Inuit in Nunavik (Northern Quebec) is working on an Inuit-led management plan for caribou in the region. They are concerned that the province does not recognize the priority of Inuit in hunting the caribou, and that federal government conservation planning does not distingush between the three herds in Nunavik. The herds in question (George River, Leaf River and Torngat Mountain) are all classified as Eastern Migratory Caribou.
21 July 2020 | Nunatsiaq News

An Oral History of Whale Cove

Six Inuit tell the story of their families' forced relocations to an unfamiliar land—and how they came to call the place home
10 October 2019 | The Walrus

Related resources

HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT-LED MONITORING OF SUMMER RANGE USE BY THE EASTERN MIGRATORY CAPE CHURCHILL CARIBOU POPULATION USING MINIMALLY INVASIVE TRAIL CAMERAS AND STANDARDIZED CRITERIA

This is a conference poster that describes the four-year project to document the Cape Churchill caribou herd. The project uses trail cameras to monitor the herd, and high school students are involved in the analysis.The project also includes fieldwork that measure such things as permafrost depth and vegetation cover in the herd's range.
(2023)

Usage: Non-commercial with attribution
Format: pdf

Eastern MigratoryCape ChurchillRange managementClimate change

Mapping and Modelling Summer and Winter Range use of the Eastern Migratory Cape Churchill Caribou: Bridging Trail Cameras and Community-Based Approaches

a confer4nce poster describing a collaborative project (University of Saskatchewan, Manitoba Métis Federation, Wapusk National Park) to define the summering and wintering areas of the Cape Churchill caribou herd. The co-developed project methodology uses trail cameras to establish presence of the herd at different places over different seasons.
(2023)

Usage: Non-commercial with attribution
Format: pdf

Eastern MigratoryCape ChurchillRange management

Inuit Co-management Led Research

A web page (with further links) documenting variousinitiatives undertaken by the Torngat Wildlife and Plants Co-management Board that focus on caribou. The three herds covered are the George River herd, The Mealy Mountain herd, and the Torngat Mountain herd, all of which occur in Nunatsiavut territory (Labrador, Canada). The page provides a useful overview of the relationship of local Inuit with caribou, and provides insight into "co-management led research".
(2023)

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Format: web

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Collaborative Research and Monitoring of Migratory Eastern Cape Churchill Caribou: Linking Wapusk National Park and an Indigenous Conservation Protected Area

A recorded presentation by several people (41:40 to end of presentation, 57:43 to end of questions) about the Cape Churchill herd and plans for its further conservation. The presentation description says, "The summer range of the Cape Churchill herd is almost completely protected by Wapusk National Park, however the winter range is largely unprotected, existing outside of the park boundaries. The development of a proposed Indigenous Protected Conservation Area (IPCA), led by the Manitoba Métis Federation is a priority goal of our group, with caribou being its focal species." The part of the presentation focused on caribou conservation starts at about 07:00.
(2022)

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Format: web

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Public Advisory: George River Caribou Population Remains at a Vulnerable Low

A brief news release from the government of Newfoundland and Labrador on the results of a count of the George River caribou herd. The count, conducted jointly with the Government of Quebec and the Nunatsiavut Government, found that the herd had declined again after a slight rise in numbers two years ago. It now stands at an estimated 7,200, a 98% drop from its numbers on 2001.
(2022)

Caribou (Eastern Migratory population)

A brief Ontario government web page on eastern migratory caribou. The range of one of the herds (the Southern Hudson Bay subpopulation) extends into Ontario.
Government of Ontario (2018)

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Format: web

Eastern Migratory

North America's Largest Herd of Caribou on the Move (360 Video)

A short 360 degree video showing migratory caribou in Nunavik moving toward calving grounds. It has commentary by David Suzuki giving some facts about the caribou.
CBC (2017)


Format: video

Eastern Migratory

Mushuau Innu learn to hunt caribou in Labrador

A 26 minute video produced by CBC program "Land and Sea" about Mushuau Innu living in Labrador, with a focus on their relationship with caribou. The video is entirely narrated, and dated in style and terminology, but shows some traditional hunting practices.
CBC (1979)

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Format: video

Eastern MigratoryPeople