Leaf River

  • Range: 663,810 km2
  • Herd size (2018): 187,000, a drop from over 600,000 in the early 2000s.

The migration of the Leaf River subpopulation is approximately 1000 km, one of the longest known for caribou. The herd moves between the southwest and northeast of the Ungava Peninsula in Nunavik (northern Quebec) in the spring and fall.

A thriving sport-hunting business was once attached to this herd, but the sport hunt ended in 2018. The herd was also hunted commercially between 1994 and 2002.

Inuit communities have suggested that muskoxen displace the caribou from some sectors.

The Quebec government has attempted to protect the calving area of the herd with a legal designation that prohibits any human activity that may negatively affect caribou habitat between May 15th and July 15th. However, the area protected does not always coincide with the area being used for calving.

Related news

Innu caribou hunt sparks debate over territorial and hunting rights in Quebec

A 2:32 video story about an Innu hunt of the the Leaf River Caribou herd in northern Quebec. Other First Nations question the right of the Innu to hunt caribou in this region, although they don't seem to question the sustainability of the hunt.
18 February 2021 | APTN

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

Researchers watching the balance between Nunavik’s wolves and caribou

The Quebec government is responding to reports of increasing wolf predation on the Leaf River herd by satellite collaring wolves to track their level of caribou predation. The story also mentions that the provincial government is working on a management plan for the Leaf River herd.
26 May 2020 | Nunatsiaq News

Population monitoring: Leaf River migratory caribou herd

The Ministère des Forêts, de la Faune et des Parcs (MFFP) has released updated population information on the Leaf River migratory caribou herd. As of November 2018, the data show that the population is still declining.
13 December 2018 | CNW Quebec

Related resources

"You can never replace the caribou": Inuit Experiences of Ecological Grief from Caribou Declines

A 59-page academic paper on the effects of caribou declines on Inuit in Nunatsiavut and NunatuKavut (Labrador). The paper discusses their grief and cultural loss.
American Imago, Volume 77, Number 1, Spring 2020, pp. 31-59 (2020)

Usage: Non-commercial with attribution
Format: pdf

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Where to spend the winter? The role of intraspecific competition and climate in determining the selection of wintering areas by migratory caribou

A 2019 academic paper on the effects of competition between different caribou herds in choosing winter ranges. The paper focuses on the George River and Leaf River herds.

Maps of the Leaf River Herd Migration

This site has monthly maps of the migration of the Leaf River herd for 2017-2018.
Government of Quebec (2018)

Usage: Non-commercial with attribution
Format: web

Leaf River

Human disturbance effects and cumulative habitat loss in endangered migratory caribou

A 2018 academic paper to assess the effects of human disturbance on barren-ground caribou herds. This study focuses on the Leaf River and George River herds in northern Quebec and Labrador. The paper finds caribou do avoid human disturbance but makes no findings on the impacts to the health of the two herds
Université Laval (2018)

Usage: Non-commercial with attribution
Format: pdf

Barren-groundGeorge RiverLeaf River

Biological status report of migratory caribou, Leaf River herd

A lengthy 2016 government of Quebec report on the Leaf River herd
Government of Quebec (2016)

Usage: Non-commercial with attribution
Format: pdf

Leaf River