Wolves are the major predator on Arctic caribou, and are the only predator that has seen targeted management action in the Canadian Arctic.
One government is paying bounties to hunters who kill wolves. The government of the Northwest Territories is paying up to $1,950 for a wolf depending on the fur grade. This payment only applies to wolves killed in a particular area where the Bathurst and Bluenose-East caribou herds have been wintering. Elsewhere in the territory, the payment for wolves is up to $950. Wolves were once more frequently hunted and trapped for their fur. The decline in the demand for furs has reduced the harvest. The government of Nunavut is also paying hunters for wolf samples, but the payments are lower and are not specifically targeted to removing wolves from caribou habitat.
The effectiveness of wolf control for migratory caribou herds is less certain than wolf management on more static herds. When the herd sticks to a particular range, the local wolf population is more easily defined. When herds migrate through the territory of different wolf packs and into the range of other caribou herds, it is much harder to keep track of all the different wolf packs they may encounter.
Wolf control does not always mean killing wolves. In Alaska/Yukon, the numbers of the Fortymile herd rebounded (and it regained its previous migratory behaviour) when members of resident wolf packs in Alaska were sterilized. The packs were large enough to maintain their territory, preventing other wolves from coming in, but their impact on the caribou herd decreased. Sterilization programs are often undertaken in association with other management members (such as changes in hunting levels) so it is difficult to assess the success of sterilization alone. In the case of the Fortymile herd, following the sterilization program, the State of Alaska moved to shooting wolves instead, a program it carried on from 2004-2018. It’s now undertaking a five-year study period to see the effect of stopping the wolf control. A recent paper suggests that neither form of wolf control had a significant impact on the herd’s size.