Managing predators

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.


Related news

Controversial methods are working to buy Canada’s caribou some time

This audio interview (8':34") was prompted by a paper that looked at the effectiveness of methods applied to saving herds of endangered southern mountain caribou in Canada. The paper's lead author Clayton Lamb is interviewed and discusses the paper's findings, such as the success of captive breeding, supplementary feeding, and wolf control. He stresses that long term measures must be taken to help restore the caribou habitat.
29 April 2024 | cbc

As grizzlies and hybrid bears push north, N.W.T. harvesters look to protect caribou

This story quotes a local resident and a researcher who agree that grizzly bears and grrizzly/polar bear hybrids are increasingly found on Victoria Island and Banks Island, off the Arctic coast of the Northwest Territories. Hunters are concerned that the increased incidence of the bears is having an impact on local caribou populations. They are considering organizing a community hunt to reduce the grizzly numbers.
22 April 2024 | cbc north

Caribou Management in Alaska

An Alaska public radio call-in program on the subject of caribou management, including climate change impacts and harvest levels. The program runs just under an hour. Not Canadian, but discussing similar issues.
10 January 2024 | Alaska Public Media

Where Are All the Caribou?

A magazine length story talking about the general decline of barren-ground caribou and the impacts of that deline on local people. The story includes a focus on the Bathurst Caribou herd, the Western Arctic herd in Alaska, and a mention of the Porcupine herd. The story mentions various possible factors in the decline with making any conclusions.
20 November 2023 | National geographic

OPINION: Alaska’s game management goals for Mulchatna caribou are unrealistic

This is another perpsepctive on the decision by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game to undertake large-scale predator control on the range of a migratory caibou herd. The department shot 94 brown bears, along with a few black bears and wolves this spring. While this is not a herd that ranges into Canada, it is an interesting discussion of various aspects of caribou management, including the efficacy of predator control, and the setting of appropriate targets for herd size. 
16 August 2023 | Anchorage Daily News

OPINION: Intensive management to help the Mulchatna caribou herd

The Alaskan Department of Fish and Game recently killed nearly 100 bears and several wolves this year in an attempt to revive a declining caribou herd. The Mulchatna herd has dropped from a recorded high of about 200,000 to about 12,000. The department was criticized for the large numbers of bears killed. This is its response.
30 June 2023 | Alaska Daily News

State wildlife officials trying to revive Southwest Alaska caribou killed almost 100 brown bears in less than a month

A story about predator control in Alaska, where many bears were killed in an effort to aid the declining Mulchatna caribou herd. The top two causes for the decline are reported to be climate change and brucellosis, but state officials say that predator control is the only practical lever they have to try to revive the herd.
12 June 2023 | Anchorage Daily News

Tłı̨chǫ Gov't says caribou herds need 'balance' between conservation, harvesting, industry

A news article that talks about the need to balance the pressures on Northwest Territories caribou herds. The article notes that the Bluenose East herd seem to be recovering, while the Bathurst herd contniues to decline.  
14 March 2022 | CBC north

Study on Yukon Southern Lakes wolves a 'success story,' researcher says

A wolf study in southern Yukon is finding that wolves are not stopping the recovery of local herds. The study found that while wolves are killing caribou, most of their diet is made up of moose. Tow local caribou herds (Carcross and Ibex) have been recovering numbers over the past twenty years.
22 December 2021 | cbc north

Habitat restoration may be alternative to wolf cull, says study

A news story about research into the effects of seismic lines lines and roads on wolves' access to caribou. The study obstructed some lines and roads with natural barriers, making them more like the surrounding bush. According to the story, encounters between wolves and caribou dropped dramatically where the access routes has been obstructed. The story also quotes a professor of ecology saying "...this study is just the first baby step in looking at whether an alternate approach like this could have the same results as what you see with wolf control."
17 June 2021 | Cabin Radio (NWT)

N.W.T. wolf cull 'inhumane and unnecessary,' says Łutsel K'e Dene First Nation

This news story quotes a submission by the Łutsel K'e Dene First Nation to an official request by the NWT and Tlicho governments for feedback on plans to cull wolves. The wolf-culling program is intended to help protect the Bluenose East and Bathurst caribou herds. Both of them have declined dramatically in the past few years. The First Nation's letter calls the wolf-culling plan "inhumane and unnecessary".
17 November 2020 | CBC North

N.W.T. harvesters will get more training to kill wolves, help caribou population

A story about the NWT and Tłı̨chǫ governments' plans to help train local harvesters to kills wolves. This is part of the attempt to reduce wolf predation on the Bathurst and Bluenose East caribou herds. At the moment only one person in theTłı̨chǫ comunities targets wolves.
28 August 2020 | CBC

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

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

Tlicho, N.W.T. govt's submit joint wolf management plan to support caribou recovery

A 2020 news story on a proposed new wolf management plan affecting the Bluenose-East and Bathurst herds.
3 February 2020 | CBC

Where are the wolves? Satellite collaring planned for wolves on caribou winter range

a 2020 news story about collaring wolves associated with the Beverly/Ahiak, Bathurst and Bluenose-east herds.
31 January 2020 | CBC

Killing wolves won't save caribou herds, experts say

A 2019 news story quoting two biologists who argue that wolf predation is not the major problem in driving the current caribou declines
27 February 2019 | CBC

Related resources

Effectiveness of population-based recovery actions for threatened southern mountain caribou

This is an academic analysis of the factors affecting southern mountain caribou decline and recovery. It offers some hope, showing that some management efforts such as predator (wolf) control are helping with the recovery of some herds, but warns that the long term solution must include habitat protection and restoration. While the herds studied are smaller and more geographically limited than migratory caribou, there may be some applicability to management of northern herds.

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Evidence of migratory coupling between grey wolves and migratory caribou

An academic paper examining movement of wolves following caribou herds in Northern Quebec.

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Shifting trails: the shrinking range of Bathurst Caribou

An excellent new web-based resource including maps and multimedia that gives a clear description of the challenges faced by the endangered Bathurst caribou herd, and the impacts of the herd's decline on the Tłı̨chǫ. The Tłı̨chǫ are a first nation whose territories to the north of Great Slave Lake overlap with the wintering range of the Bathurst herd. This site is a good case study of the challenges facing this herd and other barren ground caribou herds.
"Fate of the Caribou" project and partners (2023)

Wolf culls change hunting habits and help caribou conservation

An article based on research into wolf habits in northeast Alberta after culling prompted by caribou conservation. The article found that remaining wolves in an area where wolves have been culled shift to a more nocturnal hunting pattern. The article suggests that "If wolves are not active at the same time as large ungulates, predation rates decrease. This will likely contribute to recovering caribou population growth." 

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Reasons for Decisions Related to a Joint Proposal for Dìga (Wolf) Management in Wek’èezhìı

A 109-page document on the reasons for decision of the Wek’èezhìı Renewable Resources Board regarding wolf management in the region. The co-management board makes recommendations to the Tlicho and Northwest Territories governments, covering an area north and west of Yellowknife. The report supports continuing to kill wolves as a way of helping the recovery of the Bathurst and Bluenose East caribou herds. 
Wek’èezhìı Renewable Resources Board (2021)

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Fall supplemental feeding increases population growth rate of an endangered caribou herd

A 25-page academic paper that describes an experimental approach to increasing the size of a woodland caribou herd in British Columbia. Over several years, researchers fed caribou in the fall to help females survive winter and produce healthy calves. The study found, "The Consumption of supplemental food probably improved their nutritional status which ultimately led to population growth."

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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.


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)

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.

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-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)

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)

Demography of an increasing caribou herd with restricted wolf control: Caribou Demography and Wolves

A 2017 academic paper on the Fortymile herd focusing on wolf predation and the impact of overgrazing on herd size. The paper counters earlier opinions that wolf control (lethal and non-lethal) had a significant impact on the herd’s growth. Paper available on request.

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Wolf Technical Feasibility Assessment: Options for Managing Wolves on the Range of the Bathurst Barren-ground Caribou Herd

A 2017 assessment of options for wolf control on the range of the Bathurst caribou herd. Assessment criteria include humaneness, efficiency, effectiveness, and risks.
Wekʼèezhìi Renewable Resources Board (WRRB) (2017)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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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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)

Enhanced North Slave Wolf Harvest Incentive Program

The enhanced North Slave wolf harvest program run by the Government of the Northwest Territories in the range of the Bathurst and Bluenose-East caribou herds.
Government of the Northwest Territories

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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