Range management

The term “range management” refers to actions that can be taken to reduce impacts on the quality of the caribou range, actions to minimize disturbance to the caribou, and damage to the land that sustains them. These actions include fire control, regulation of forestry, establishment of protected areas, and limitations on infrastructure (such as roads) or measures taken to reduce its impact.

Fire Control

Fires play an important role in the regeneration of natural systems in the north, but they are also increasing as the north warms. This increase, coupled with the decline of most of the Canadian Arctic caribou herds has raised community concerns about the way fires are fought. This concern is centred on the barren-ground herds that tend to winter in the treeline. The lichens that are a major part of the barren-ground caribou winter diet can take decades to recover from forest fires.  However, very old stands of trees also tend to have less lichen around them.

The NWT government considers important caribou habitat as a “value-at-risk” when making decisions on fighting forest fires. The government is considering increasing fire response activities on key caribou winter ranges during the fire season. 

Infrastructure and Development

Planned roads, ports, and pipelines and the development of mines and oil and gas drilling have raised concerns about the impacts of development of caribou. There is evidence from both scientific and Indigenous knowledge sources that caribou avoid roads and mining developments. This avoidance does not appear to be the same in all cases, so it is difficult to say exactly what impact it has. Avoidance may add to stress felt by the animals, and cause them to stay away from areas in which they would normally feed, or areas through which they would travel.

These concerns are being seriously considered by management authorities in some cases. For instance, the Nunavut Impact Review Board turned down a gold mining proposal south of Cambridge Bay (the Back River project owned by Sabina Gold and Silver Corp.) in 2016 in large part due to concerns about its impact on caribou. The federal Minister asked the board to take another look at the project, and it was eventually approved, but with several measures touching on mitigation of the project’s effects on caribou. Those include shutting down operations if caribou calving or post-calving ranges overlap with the mine area.

Protected Areas

Using protected areas to protect caribou populations is an approach that has been tried in some areas, particularly to protect calving grounds, which are known to be particularly sensitive areas for caribou. A problem with this approach is that calving areas shift from year to year, so protected areas need to be large enough to cover the range of potential calving areas. In 2016, the Draft Nunavut Land Use Plan proposed that all caribou calving grounds in Nunavut should be protected, but the plan has yet to be approved.

Some caribou herds, such as the Cape Churchill and Porcupine herds have large protected areas that cover historical calving grounds, but even these are not always safe. The US government has opened up the 6,000 km2 Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (where the Porcupine herd calves) to oil and gas exploration, a move being opposed in the courts.

The NWT government has been using a different tactic for the Bathurst Caribou herd, setting up the Mobile Core Bathurst Caribou Management Zone. This area, updated monthly as the caribou move, is a no-hunting zone for caribou. The 2019 Bathurst Caribou Range Plan also proposes habitt conservation for sensitive areas and to ensure connectivity of the herd's annual range

 

 

Related news

Community plans to lead caribou conservation in Sahtú region

This news story is about a decision by the Sahtu Renewable Resources Board (Northwest Territories) to approve a community-led approach to managing caribou. The communities of Colville Lake and Délı̨nę have already developed plans. Once the community plans are fully approved, a "total allowable harvest" quota system administered by the Renewable Resources Board will be lifted, although it can be reimposed if the Board thinks it necessary.
18 November 2020 | CKLB Radio

Canada’s environment minister concerned about Alaska seismic project impacts on Indigenous communities and trans-border wildlife

News item about the concerns raised by Canada's Environment Minister regarding planned development in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. The area is the calving ground for the Porcupine Caribou herd that ranges into Yukon and the NWT. Seismic work in the reserve is planned for this winter, stretching into the time when caribou begin arriving in the area for calving.
11 November 2020 | RCI - eye on the Arctic

Quannah Chasinghorse Is Fighting to Save the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

A magazine story about the female Indigenous youth activists involved in the struggle over oil and gas exploitation in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, an area that contains the calving grounds of the Porcupine caribou herd. The story explores the motivation of the activists.
23 September 2020 | teen vogue

Gwich’in file lawsuit against Trump administration to save Arctic Refuge

An article about the lawsuit filed by a coalition of Indigenous and environmental organizations to try to counter plans by the US government to open up the Arctic National Widlife Refuge to oil and gas development. The Refuge on Alaska's Arctic coast covers the calving grounds for the Porcupine caribou herd that migrates between Alaska, Yukon and the Northwest Territories.
8 September 2020 | Inuvik Drum

Seal River Watershed slated to become Indigenous Protected Area

A news release from Environment and Climate Change Canada talking about its $3.2 million investment an Indigenous Protected Area in the Seal River Watershed in Northern Manitoba. This area in a wintering ground for the Beverly and Qamanirjuaq caribou herds. The initiative covers traditional territories of the Cree, Dene and Inuit. 
25 August 2020 | cision

'There's nowhere like it': Alaska's wildlife refuge fears death by drilling

A news story about the Trump administration's plan to open up the Arctic National Widlife Refuge in Alaska to drilling for oil and gas by the end of 2020. The refuge currently protects the calving grounds of the Porcupine caribou herd. The story notes that lawsuits and lack of demand for oil may dampen the propsoect of development in the area.
21 August 2020 | The Guardian

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

New framework identifies climate change “refugia” in boreal forest

This magazine article talks about the idea of looking at what places in the northern boreal forest are least likely to change as climate change advances. Areas that change the least ('resilient' areas) are likely to be important for animals adapted to existing conditions such as caribou, so conserving these areas could be a priority.
25 June 2020 | Canadian Geographic

troubled tundra

A long magazine article on the future of the Arctic National Widlife Refuge in Alaska. The refuge is home to the calving grounds of the Porcupine caribou herd that migrates between the Northwest Territories, Yukon and Alaska. The refuge is threatened by a changing climate and by ongoing attempts to open it up for development.
24 June 2020 | earth island journal

Agnico Eagle tries to ease caribou protection measures for Nunavut mine

A news story about a gold-mining company's attempt to loosen restrictions on transporting ore on a haul road when caribou are present. The mining company operates in the Kivalliq region of Nunavut, north of the community of Baker Lake. The region is used by the Qamanirjuaq herd, the largest herd found in Nunavut.
8 June 2020 | Nunatsiaq News

Northern Indigenous leaders meet with banks to persuade them not to invest in Arctic energy development

First Nation has long fought repeated attempts at oil exploration that would affect a vital caribou herd, which they say is crucial to their way of life
18 December 2019 | Financial Post

Indigenous governments strike agreement permitting shared management, harvest of Porcupine caribou

A 2019 news story about an agreement between Indigenous governments in Yukon and the NWT regarding management of the Porcupine herd.
30 August 2019 | Yukon News

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

Porcupine Caribou and ANWR 2018

  Letter from the Canadian Arctic Resources Committee to the Coastal Plain Oil and Gas Leasing Program EIS at the U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management opposing proposed development in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska, calving ground of the Porcupine caribou herd  
16 August 2019 | CARC

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

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

Communities 'supporting each other' to conserve Bluenose East herd

A 2019 news story that includes suggestions that wolves are to blame for summer range losses for two NWT caribou herds. The story also talks about Indigenous management.
11 April 2019 | CBC

Blanket protection for Nunavut caribou not the only option: wildlife biologist

A 2019 news story focusing on Nunavut caribou populations that questions the effectiveness of protected areas on caribou conservation in the territory.
5 April 2019 | Nunatsiaq News

Across Canada, caribou are on course for extinction, a prominent expert warns. What happens after that?

While the threats caribou face are complex and vary by region, the common denominator is human activity, primarily through resource development and, increasingly, climate change.
29 October 2018 | Globe and Mail

Related resources

State-dependent foraging by caribou with different nutritional requirements

A 14-page academic paper that examines the connection between the physiological state of caribou and how they feed. The paper says, "Foraging time by caribou was partially state-dependent, highlighting the importance of accounting for physiological state in studies of animal behavior. Fine-scale foraging behaviors may influence larger-scale behavioral strategies, with potential implications for conservation and management."
Journal of Mammalogy (2020)

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Range managementResources

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)

caribou and sea ice crossings near Gjoa Haven

This is part of a project website (www.straightupnorth.ca) for community-based research in Inuit Nunangat (areas where Inuit live in Canada). The caribou project looked at caribou's use of ice crossings near Gjoa Haven, Nunavut, and how changing sea ice conditions and ship traffic could affect those crossings.
(2020)

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Range managementClimate changeHuman disturbance

Extirpation despite regulation? Environmental assessment and caribou

This is an academic paper, but written in accessible language about the shortcomings of environmental assessment as a tool for caribou conservation. It concentrates mostly on woodland caribou, but the discussion is broadly applicable to any developments in caribou habitat.
Conservation Science and Practice (2020)

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Range managementResourcesHuman disturbance

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)

Interview on Advisory Committee for Cooperation on Wildlife Management

Ever wonder how different jurisdictions cooperate on caribou management? Here's one example. An interview with Jody Pellissey, Executive Director of the Wekʼèezhìi Renewable Resources Board about the Advisory Committee for Cooperation on Wildlife Management (ACCWM). It was created to share information and coordinate wildlife management between wildlife management boards in the NWT and Nunavut, with a particular focus on the management of transboundary caribou herds.
(2020)

Boreal Caribou Can Coexist with Natural but Not Industrial Disturbances

An academic paper looking at the cumulative impacts of industrial development on woodland caribou in Alberta. The paper concludes that caribou populations are being driven down by the cumulative effects of industrial development, mostly related to oil and gas
the journal of wildlife management (2020)

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Range managementHuman disturbance

Interchange and Overlap Among Four Adjacent Arctic Caribou Herds

This academic paper looks at four barren-ground caribou herds in Alaska (including the Porcupine herd that ranges into northern Canada) to try to understand how often individuals change herds. Of the four herds studied, the Porcupine herd had the lowest incidence of caribou joining another herd. The authors concluded, "There was greater herd interchange from the 2 smaller herds to the 2 larger herds, indicating a tendency of caribou to join larger groups or move to areas of higher caribou density."
(2020)

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PorcupineBarren-groundRange management

Large‐scale prion protein genotyping in Canadian caribou populations and potential impact on chronic wasting disease susceptibility

This academic paper is about chronic wasting disease, a brain disease that affects members of the deer family. It has not been found in Canadian caribou yet, but has been found in deer. The genetic makeup of different caribou subspecies is thought to influence their vulnerability to chronic wasting disease. This paper suggests that barren-ground caribou may be less vulnerable than the woodland and mountain caribou.
(2020)

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Barren-groundRange managementNatural factors

Biotic interactions govern the distribution of coexisting ungulates in the Arctic Archipelago – A case for conservation planning

An academic paper looking at what might best predict habitat for Peary caribou and muskox in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. the paper models what it considers likely key habitat for both species in late winter, and notes that most of this habitat is outside of protected areas.
(2020)

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PearyRange managementClimate change

advisory committee for cooperation on wildlife management

This is the site for the Advisory Committee for Cooperation on Wildlife Management. It was established to exchange information, help develop cooperation and consensus, and make recommendations regarding wildlife and wildlife habitat issues that cross land claim and treaty boundaries in the Northwest Territories. The committee includes the Wildlife Management Advisory Council (NWT), Gwich’in Renewable Resources Board, Ɂehdzo Got’ı̨nę Gots’ę́ Nákedı (Sahtú Renewable Resources Board), Wek’èezhìi Renewable Resources Board, Kitikmeot Regional Wildlife Board, and Tuktut Nogait National Park Management Board. The ACCWM covers three caribou herds, the Bluenose east and west herds, and Cape Bathurst.
(2020)

Public opinion about caribou protection in Canada’s North

A 2019 poll on protection of caribou. The poll of people in northern regions was commissioned by WWF Canada. It found almost 90% wanted protection for caribou calving grounds.
WWF (2019)


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Range management

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)

Barren-ground Caribou Co-Management in the NWT

A 21-page booklet explaining the different responsibilities and authroities for managing all of the barren-ground caribou herds in the NWT. It includes information on responsibilities for herds that cross borders.
Government of the Northwest Territories (2019)

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)

Recovery strategy for Barren-Ground caribou

This 62-page 2019 draft recovery strategy for barren-ground caribou in the NWT was produced by the group of wildlife boards and governments responsible for the conservation and recovery of species at risk in the NWT.
Government of the Northwest Territories (2019)

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Barren-groundManaging huntingManaging predatorsRange management

KEEYASK GENERATION PROJECT TERRESTRIAL EFFECTS MONITORING PLAN REPORT - CARIBOU WINTER ABUNDANCE ESTIMATE 2019

this 48 page report is part of a multi-year monitoring plan designed to assess the effects on caribou of construction and operation of the Keeyask hydro project. The project is on the Nelson River in Northeast Manitoba. The project area is used by the qamanirjuaq herd, as well as two herds of Eastern migratory caribou in the Hudson Bay region. The report concludes that it is difficult to tell what influence the project has had on caribou crossing affected water bodies, but that it appears construction access roads had minimal impacts on their movements.
(2019)

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)

Population structure of caribou in an ice-bound archipelago

This 2018 academic paper suggests that, based on genetics, the Baffin Island population of caribou should be treated as a separate “designatable unit” under the classification system for the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). This would have implications for management of caribou on the island.
(2018)

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Baffin IslandRange management

Action Plan for the Bluenose-East Caribou Herd

A 56-page action plan for the Bluenose-east herd prepared by the wildlife management boards with stewardship responsibilities for barren-ground caribou and their habitat in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut. This is a follow-up to the 2014 management plan, "Taking Care of Caribou".
Wekʼèezhìi Renewable Resources Board (WRRB) (2017)

Action Plan for the Bluenose-West Caribou Herd

A 62-page action plan for the Bluenose-west herd prepared by the wildlife management boards with stewardship responsibilities for barren-ground caribou and their habitat in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut. This is a follow-up to the 2014 management plan, "Taking Care of Caribou".
Wekʼèezhìi Renewable Resources Board (WRRB) (2017)

Action Plan for the Cape Bathurst Caribou Herd

A 62-page action plan for the Cape Bathurst herd prepared by the wildlife management boards with stewardship responsibilities for barren-ground caribou and their habitat in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut. This is a follow-up to the 2014 management plan, "Taking Care of Caribou".
Wekʼèezhìi Renewable Resources Board (WRRB) (2017)

A long time ago in the future: caribou and the people of Ungava

This document is the 2017 Ungava Peninsula Caribou Aboriginal Round Table strategy, devised by the several indigenous governments and organizations that share the herds. It has five action plans, listed in order of priority: 1) Indigenous Sharing Agreement; 2) Research and Monitoring Plan; 3) Habitat Management and Environmental Impact Plan; 4) Stewardship,Engagement, and Communication Plan; and, 5) Social and Economic Plan
NunatuKavut Community Council (2017)

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Managing huntingRange management

COSEWIC Assessment and Status Report on the Caribou (Rangifer tarandus), Barren-ground population in Canada - 2016

The 2016 assessment report on barren-ground caribou prepared by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Species in Canada (COSEWIC). It is a long, thorough and quite technical overview. It resulted in the Canadian populations of barren-ground caribou being designated “threatened” under the federal government system
Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS) (2016)

Technical Report on Cape Bathurst, Bluenose-West and Bluenose-East Caribou Herds

A 90-page 2016 report presenting scientific knowledge and status of the Cape Bathurst, BluenoseWest and Bluenose-East caribou herds and gaps in knowledge.  One of two companion documents to "Taking Care of Caribou: The Cape Bathurst, Bluenose-West and Bluenose-East Caribou Herds Management Plan"
Government of the Northwest Territories (2016)

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)

Engaging Bluenose Caribou Communities

This lengthy 2014 report contain notes from all the community meetings that fed into the management plan for three herds (Bluenose-East and West and Cape Bathurst). It is the result of consultation sessions in 17 communities in the NWT and Nunavut. It contains much Indigneous knowledge about the caribou, but the report cautions that it “...should not be seen as a complete record of the traditional and community knowledge that exists about these caribou.”
Wekʼèezhìi Renewable Resources Board (WRRB) (2014)

We have been Living with the Caribou all our Lives: a report on information recorded during community meetings

A 196-page report from 2014 from The Advisory Committee for Cooperation on Wildlife Management (a collection of wildlife management/renewable resources boards from the NWT and Nunavut). This report details community input to a management plan for the Cape Bathurst, Bluenose-West, and Bluenose-East herds
Advisory Committee for Cooperation on Wildlife Management (2014)

Traditional Knowledge: Barren-ground Caribou in the Northwest Territories

A 2013 report on traditional knowledge of caribou in the Northwest Territories. It covers topics including the peoples’ relationship to caribou, populations and abundance, threats, and management.
(2013)

FINAL REPORT of the Panel for the Substituted Environmental Impact Review of the Hamlet of Tuktoyaktuk, Town of Inuvik and GNWT - Proposal to Construct the Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk Highway

A long 2013 environmental impact assessment report on the construction of the Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk highway. The consideration of impacts on caribou, and board recommendations on dealing with these impacts begins on page 93.
Impact Assessment Agency of Canada (2013)

Beverly and Qamanirjuaq Caribou Management Plan 2013-2022

A 117-page plan published in 2014, that lays out management for the Beverly and Qamanirjuaq herds. There are also shorter summary versions of this plan available on the management board's website.
Beverly and Qamanirjuaq Caribou Management Board (2013)

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Beverly and QaminirjuaqManaging huntingManaging predatorsRange management

Working together for Baffin Island Caribou

A brief 2013 workshop report which examines the causes and impacts of the decline of caribou on Baffin Island, and suggests some management measures.
Government of Nunavut (2013)

Three Decades of Caribou Recovery Programs in Yukon: A Paradigm Shift in Wildlife Management

A relatively brief paper published by the Yukon government in 2009, it summarizes the experience of the managing five different Yukon herds (mostly non-migratory). It suggests that both harvest management and wolf management have been effective methods, and emphasises that managing impacts on herds, such as development and harvest impacts are preferable to costly recovery programs
Yukon Department of Environment (2009)

Frequently Asked Questions: The Porcupine caribou and development in ANWR

An undated recent “frequently asked questions” document from the Yukon Government on the opening up of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (calving ground of the Porcupine caribou herd) to industrial development.
Yukon Department of Environment

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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BathurstManaging huntingManaging predatorsRange management

Barren-ground co-management in the Northwest Territories

This 20-page document from the Government of the Northwest Territories gives an overview of how co-management bodies in the NWT participate in management of the nine barren-ground caribou herds found in the territory.
Government of the Northwest Territories