Human disturbance

The impact of human disturbance on caribou is one of the most contested issues in the study of caribou. By human disturbance, we mean things like industrial impacts (such as mining or oil and gas installations), the development of infrastructure such as roads, ports, and pipelines, and the presence of people generally, such as tourists. 

A large scale 2018 study on two barren-ground caribou herds in Northern Quebec and Labrador found that caribou did avoid many types of disturbance. The effect was different for different types of disturbance.  The avoidance stretched as far as 23 km for one herd avoiding a mine site. In the case of power lines, there was usually no apparent avoidance. Roads were found to pose a barrier on some occasions, but on others, were crossed by caribou. The study found that overall, human disturbance was affecting where caribou chose to go, but it could not conclude that this would have a negative effect on the herds.

Other studies have included information from Indigenous knowledge sources that also suggest that human disturbance, particularly industrial disturbance, is responsible for caribou avoiding certain areas. A report prepared for the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board in 2015 concluded, “ The impact of development on caribou is usually not due to single roads, mines, cut-blocks or seismic lines; rather, it is the cumulative effect of many habitat alterations including disturbances over time that affects caribou numbers and distribution.”

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

Arctic caribou on thin ice: climate change threats revealed

This brief article provide a summary of research into the impacts of climate change on Peary caribou. There is also a mention of caribou on Baffin Island. The research found that Peary caribou, that migrate aross sea ice, face challenges as the sea ice progressively thins and diminishes. 
23 January 2024 | Sigma bulletin

Oil field road traffic disrupts North Slope caribou more than previously recognized

Acording to this news article, a new study has found that the threshold for traffic to disturb caribou is lower than previously thought. The article says five vehicles per hour is enough to distrub caribou near the road. The prvious generally accepted figure was 15 vehicles per hour. The study foused on the Central Arctic Caribour Herd in Alaska
17 January 2024 | Alaska Public Media

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

Board recommends against proposed mining road in central Yukon

A Yukon environmental review has recommended against the building of a road that is in the range of the Fortymile and Klaza caribou herd. Concerns about the impact of the road on the two herds were a factor in the board's recommendation. The recommendation now goes for decision by the Yukon government and the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
3 January 2024 | cbc north

Taking a Bite Out of Caribou Herds

An article written by a researcher looking into the factors affecting the decline of barren ground caribou, particularly the Bathurst herd. The researcher is a member of the "Kutz lab" team that has been working alongside Indigenous communities in the Northwest Territories to investigate causes of the decline, and monitor caribou health. "In the coming year, we are initiating a new project for Central Canadian barren-ground caribou to see whether Indigenous knowledge of caribou health, coupled with harvester-based sampling and local field observations, can anticipate population shifts for proactive management."
14 December 2023 | fair chase magazine

For the Gwich’in People, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge Isn’t a Political Issue, It’s Home

A brief magazine article focusing on the importance of the Porcupine caribou herd to Gwich'in people. The article is written in the context of continuing pressure to open up a part of the herd's Alaskan calving grounds to oil and gas exploration and development.
7 December 2023 | Smithsonian Magazine

All-season road between Tibbitt Lake and Lockhart Lake moves forward despite dwindling diamonds

The government of the Northwest Territories plans to proceed with an all season road that pushes into a mineral-rich region north of Yellowknife. There are concerns the road would imperil already-declining caribou herds, especially the endangered Bathurst herd. An environmental review of development in the region is pending.
1 December 2023 | CBC North

Caribou numbers will decline as long as Nunavut goes without land use plan says former premier

This story talks about the impacts on caribou from the lack of a land use plan for Nunavut. The plan, which has been in preparation for many years, was submitted to governments and Nunvut Tunngavik Incorporated (the Nunavut land claims organization) earlier this year. Former premier Paul Okalik blames the absence of a plan for the encroachment of mining companies on caribou calving grounds, and subsequent threats to caribou populations.
30 November 2023 | APTN

Review board recommends against Meliadine mine extension

The projet review board for Nunavut has recommended against the expansion of a gold mine north of Rankin Inlet. The Nunavut Impact Review Board says impacts of the expansion pose a risk to the Qamanirjuaq caribou herd. The board's recommendation goes to the federal Minister of Nortern Affairs for a final decision.
22 November 2023 | Nunatsiaq News

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

Agnico Eagle now complying with caribou order for Meadowbank, feds say

A mine north of Baker Lake in Nunavut has agreed to change some aspects of how it monitors and responds to caribou near the mine. Earlier in 2023, the Meadowbank Mine, owned by Agnico Eagle had been ordered by the federal government to comply with its permits relating to when and how it ceases operations on mining roads when caribou are present. The news story quotes a government document stating that the government is now satisfied with the mine owner's compliance with the earlier order.
5 October 2023 | CBC North

Caribou concerns dominate hearing on Nunavut mine extension

Public hearings about proposed extensions of a gold mining project near Rankin Inlet have heard fears about the potential impacts on caribou. A proposed wind farm is of particular concern, as local people say it is close to calving grounds.
20 September 2023 | CBC

Final hearing on future of Meliadine gold mine begins in Rankin Inlet

A proposal to extend the life of a gold mine near Rankin Inlet in Nunavut has raised concerns about the project's impact on caribou. The Meliadine mine proposal is being reviewed by the Nunavut Impact Review Board. One concern raised by the local Inuit association regards the impacts of a proposed wind farm at the mine. The Kivalliq Inuit Association says, "The impacts of wind turbines on barren ground caribou herds have not been studied in enough depth to truly understand the potential impacts...".
12 September 2023 | CBC

Gwich'in celebrate cancellation of oil exploration leases in Alaska's Arctic refuge Social Sharing

The US government administration annouced it is cancelling oil exploration leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, an area that includes the breeding grounds of the Porcupine caribou herd. The herd migrate between Canada and Alaska. Gwich'in leaders say they will continue to push for eglislation to make the area permanently off-limits for oil and gas development. The decision was not poppular with Alaskan politicans and an organization representing the Iñupiat.
8 September 2023 | CBC

Caribou butts and wolf cameos: How motion-activated cameras may reveal the secrets of a healthy Manitoba herd

A News story about ongoing research on the Cape Churchill herd, much of whose territory is protected by Wapusk National Park. The research has used a network of trail cameras to help track caribou location and behaviour. The researchers are trying to determine why this particular herd is stable while many herds are declining - the hypothesis is that the park's protection has much to do with it.
24 August 2023 | CBC

Federal judge upholds pause on pre-development oil work in Arctic refuge

A news story about a judge's order to halt oil and gas survey work in the Alaskan National Widlife Refuge. The refuge contains the calving area of th Porcupine caribou herd. The state of Alaska and some of its agencies have leases in the refuge that would have permitted the first stages of development. The ruling means those who wish to undertake the oil and gas development work must "...await the results of a new environmental assessment expected later this year." The story notes that,"The federal government is expected to deliver a revised environmental impact statement by the end of September, and that could lead to a decision that changes, confirms or voids the ANWR development program altogether."
11 August 2023 | Alaska Beacon

Nunavut Planning Commission submits territory-wide land use plan for approval

A plan to guide development and conservation in Nunavut has been publicly released. To be finalized, the plan must be approved by the governments of Canada and Nunavut, and by the Inuit organization that administers the Nunavut land Claim, Nunvut Tunggavik Incorporated. A spokesperson for conservation organization WWF says the plan's protections for caribou calving grouds are a sign of progress, but he's concerned that those protections could be over-ridden by other elements of the plan.  
23 June 2023 | CBC North

Feds say Agnico Eagle has failed to protect caribou at Nunavut gold mine as promised

The federal government says a company operating a gold mine near Baker Lake in Nunavut is failling to comply with promises to close roads when migrating caribou are close by. In an oficial document, a government representative has ordered the company to "...comply with its permits to operate or face potential penalties."
16 June 2023 | CBC north

Braiding Indigenous rights and endangered species law

A story based on a Science magazine paper about how conservation targets need to take into account "...what communities need for health, food security, and cultural well-being." The story uses the recovery of mountain caribou in British Columbia as an example of how conservation targets need to shift to allow for meaningful Indigenous harvest. "The paper highlights the current caribou count would only provide about three animals, or one meal per person, per year for Saulteau and West Moberly First Nations. The culturally significant count would require a herd of over 3,000 animals, an abundance more reflective of the historic “sea of caribou” level."
23 May 2023 | University of British Columbia

Mining, climate change decimates the Bathurst caribou herd in N.W.T.

Both a web story and video (3'37"), with different content. The web story concentrates more on the decline of the Bathurst Caribou herd in NWT/Nunavut, and the efforts made by local Tłı̨chǫ people to monitor the caribou and the hunting of the caribou. The video covers some of the same ground but focuses more on the efforts to amass Tłı̨chǫ knowledge around the caribou and caribou hunting. 
13 April 2023 | APTN

Nunavut flips stance on caribou protection again, now supports development ban on calving grounds

The Government of Nunavut made a submission to the Nunavut Land Use Plan in which it supports banning mining development in caribou calving grounds, and taking measures to seasonally limit industrial activity in other areas important to caribou. The story notes that the government is not backing proposals by some Inuit organizations to impose mobile caribou protection measures, such as those used in the Northwest Territories to limit hunting of the Bathurst caribou herd.
11 April 2023 | cbc north

Guilbeault calls for decree to protect caribou in Quebec

Although this story is about woodland caribou, it is included here because of the actions being taken by a federal minister to discharge obligations to protect habitat for a threatened species, Woodland caribou. The federal minister has been negotiating a habitat protection plan with the government of Quebec, but the story quotes the Minister as saying that he is, "now required by law to recommend to the Governor in Council that a protection order be made for unprotected portions of critical boreal caribou habitat."
7 February 2023 | CTV news

Climate change seen as suspected factor in Western Arctic Caribou Herd decline

The news story is about a drop in one of North Americ'a's largest caribou herds. Alaska’s Western Arctic herd population is 164,000 down from a high of nearly 500,000 in 2003. The article cites climate change and industrial developent as two potential causes for the drop in numbers. The lichen available to caribou has dropped markedly in recent years, and nany caribou refuse to cross a road connecting a lead zinc mine to the coast.
2 January 2023 | alaska beacon

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

What can caribou hear? Scientists work to understand impact of noise

A story about research conducted into what sounds caribou can hear, and the sounds around them. The first part of the research focused on what caribou can hear, and found they are particularly responsive to higher frequency sounds. The second part added audio recorders to collared caribou, "Tracking how caribou react to sounds in their environment could help define strategies for reducing development’s impact on the animals." according to the story. bonus for teachers - this story also includes sounds from the collared caribou, including a caribou burp.
21 November 2022 | Cabin radio

GN calls for federal investigation into Agnico Eagle’s Meadowbank mine

The Government of Nunavut is asking the federal government to investigate what it says is a mining company's failure to follow caribou conservation measures. The Meadowbank Gold Mine, north of Baker Lake in Nunavut, is supposed to close raods when groups of caribou are in the vicinity. In a letter, a Nunavut government representative says this is the fourth year that there is evidence that the comany has not followed the rules on raod closures.
3 November 2022 | Nunatsiaq news

Diamond mine proposal draws concerns for wildlife, environment

Caribou calving areas on the south of Baffin Island (Nunavut) could be affected by a proposed diamond mine in the area. The DeBeers mine could open as soon as 2026 if granted regulatory approval. The number of caribou on the island has shrunk by an estimated 95% since highs in the 1990s..
14 October 2022 | Nunatsiaq News

Critics get their time at Nunavut land use planning hearings

A story about the hearings into the Nunavut Land Use Plan. Some speakers at hte hearings drew attention to the importance of the plan to caribou herds, and asked for more such protections before hte plan is finally adopted.
27 September 2022 | cbc north

Habitat restoration shifts predator-prey dynamics of Alberta's caribou and wolves, study says

A news story about a study conducted in Alberta on the caribou conservation effects of amending seismic lines to return them to closer to a natural state. The study found that restored siesmic lines slowed both caribou and wolves travelling along them. There is a suggestion that slowing the animals may reduce rates of wolf predation on caribou.
16 September 2022 | cbc

Commission releases new version of Dawson land use plan

A news story about the release of a draft land use plan to be managed by the Yukon and Trʼondëk Hwëchʼin First Nation governments. The draft plan includes withdrawing a corridor used by the Fortymile caribou herd from use for quartz mining. The plan covers just under 40 thousand saquare kilometres in the Dawson region. 
13 September 2022 | cbc north


The article by two prominent Canadian caribou biologists raises the issue of caribou migration memories. They suggest that caribou migrations are learned behaviour, and that in some herds where numbers have dropped very low, there may be insuffucient collective memory to sustain traditional migration routes.
16 August 2022 | The Circle (WWF)

Wildlife Defenders Slam Senate Dems’ Bill for Not Protecting Refuge in Alaska

This news story quotes Gwich'in critical of the failure of the United States government to extend protections for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge that contains the calving grounds of the Porcupine Caribou herd that ranges between Canada and the United States.
10 August 2022 | Common Dreams

Transplanting lichen to grow food for threatened caribou

A news story about a pilot project in British Columbia that is attempting to speed up the recovery of forage in winter range for caribou by transplanting lichen. the range for a local caribou herd has been affected my mountain pine beetle infestations, fires, and other distrubances that have reduced the quantity of lichen available for a local caribou herd. The story says that results from the project are "very positive" and that, "Early signs point to this new approach becoming a tool in caribou winter habitat restoration."
21 July 2022 | Prince george citizen

Proposed Meliadine mine extension to be assessed

A mining company is proposing an expansion to its gold mine north of Rankin Inlet, Nunavut. The Agnico Eagle proposal would add wind turbines and an airstrip to the mine. Some local Inuit organization fear the impact on caribou migrations. The proposal is being reviewed by the Nunavut Impact Review Board.
5 July 2022 | Nunatsiaq news

Kudz Ze Kayah approval is a ‘blatant disregard’ of First Nations rights: Ross River Dena Chief

The story is about First Nations' reaction to the approval by the territorial and federal governments of a copper, lead and zinc mine in southeast Yukon. The Ross River Dena Council is concerned about the impact of the mine on the Finlayson caribou herd. The proposed mine is located in an area used by the herd for both rutting and calving. The First Nation chiefs had asked for a panel review of the project.
23 June 2022 | Yukon News

Indigenous resource management guarantees cultural survival, with the benefits passed on to everyone

An opinion piece talking about the place of Indigenous peoples in economic development and environmental management. The article starts with talking about the centrality of caribou to many Indigenous peoples. "Caribou hold pride of place in many Indigenous cultures, providing a primary source of food and playing vital roles in community life. They are also a touchstone species – when threatened, a decline in their well-being is an early indicator of impending ecological collapse. "
14 June 2022 | Macdonald laurier institute

Once eager to drill, oil companies exit leases in Arctic refuge

Three big oil firms have pulled out of oil drilling leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. The refuge is the calving grounds for the porcupine caribou herd that migrates between between Alaska, Yukon, and the Northwest Territories. Drilling in the area has been a contested issue for decades. The Gwich'in people who rely on the herd have been vocal opponents of drilling in the area.
3 June 2022 | Washington Post

A story about how British Columbia has restricted caribou and moose hunting in part of the province in response to a 2021 court ruling on the treaty rights of First Nation. "The court said the province failed to maintain the nation's rights to hunt, fish and trap without interference. While no single project had a devastating effect on the community, the court said the cumulative impact of a series of projects limited the nation's ability to maintain its rights." Critics quoted in the story say the province has failed to deal with the larger problem of cumulative effects of industrial impacts.
24 May 2022 | CBC

Caribou protection called most problematic area of draft land-use plan

The news story says "The Nunavut Planning Commission says caribou protection is the top concern it hears about when it comes to its draft land-use plan." Hearings on the land use plan are scheduled until January 2023.
12 May 2022 | Nunatsiaq News

ENR debuts first of five regional plans designed to protect boreal caribou habitat

This news story is about a government of the Northwest Territories interim plan to protect boreal (woodland) caribou in part of the territory. The government has split the territory into five management regions and this interim plan applies to only one of the regions, the Wek’èezhı̀ı. The interim plan sets limits for habitat disturbance. There are an estimated 6,000 to 7,000 boreal caribou in the territory. They are designated “threatened” by both the federal and NWT governments.
29 March 2022 | Northern News Services

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

The biggest land use plan in the world: how Nunavut is putting mining and conservation on the map

This longer story is about the Nunavut land use plan. The draft plan designates key caribou habitat such as calving areas as "limited use" effectively closing them off to industrial development such as mining. The plan has been in development for fifteen years, and is now considered close to completion.
18 January 2022 | The Narwhal

Boreal Caribou Range Management plan in development

A news story about the ongoing consultations led by the Government of the Northwest Territories to produce five regional management plans for boreal caribou conservation. The story says the plans will map out caribou habitat into basic, enhanced and intensive protection zones, with the intention of keeping 65% of caribou habitat across the NWT undisturbed. Consultations on the plan will continue during 2022.
17 January 2022 | Inuvik Drum

The ‘new’ face of environmental racism in Quebec

This opinion piece written by the Chief of the Lac Simon First Nation and the head of Greenpeace Canada says the Quebec government's delay in enacting a caribou recovery strategy is envionmental racism. The piece argues that the consequence of the government's inaction "... is the oppression and impoverishment of Indigenous Peoples, forcing them to change their diet and lifestyle, resulting in communities that suffer physically, mentally and spiritually. It’s not just the caribou that are endangered in the boreal forest, it’s the delicate balance that is essential to life."
14 January 2022 | The Narwhal

Shrinking Western Arctic Caribou Herd prompts discussion about future hunting restrictions

The Western Arctic herd in Northwest Alaska has declined by 23% over the past two years. The decline has prompted a working group to change the status of the herd to "preservative declining". the story suggest this "...could lead to a prohibition on the harvest of calves, further limits on the cow harvest for residents and the closure of hunting for nonresidents." there are several reasons discussed for the decline, including a mining road disrupting migration.
20 December 2021 | Anchorage daily news (alaska)

Indigenous groups concerned about Point Lake’s impact on caribou

This news story talks about the concerns raised by Indigenous organizations at a hearing into a potential new diamond development about 300 km northeast of Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories. The Indigenous organization representatives fear that the waste rock from the mine will interfere with the health of the depleted Bathurst caribou herd. The mining company says it has taken measures to ensure that the proposed mine does not significantly impede caribou movement. 
13 December 2021 | cabin radio (NWT)

Arctic lays out environmental plan for Point Lake

This news story talks about the plan for the Arctic Canadian Diamond Company to pursue a new diamond mining project at Point Lake, near the company's existing mine at Ekati. The company plans to try to mitigate the impacts on Caribou of mine infrastructure; "Arctic’s plan includes caribou monitoring, ramps on an access road that will allow caribou to cross, investment of $500,000 over three years in research on the Bathurst caribou herd, and support for an on-the-land culture camp. Arctic’s plan includes caribou monitoring, ramps on an access road that will allow caribou to cross, investment of $500,000 over three years in research on the Bathurst caribou herd, and support for an on-the-land culture camp. "
29 November 2021 | Cabin Radio (NWT)

Caribou populations are dwindling, and we’re in denial about it

An opinion piece from Yukon Conservation Society about the impacts of industrial development on caribou herds. It notes that caribou habitat in Yukon is relatively well-protected.
26 October 2021 | Yukon News

Decades-long plan to protect caribou in Nunavut nearing completion

An online article and associated radio broadcast about the near-completion on the Nunavut Land Use Plan, and its implications for caribou conservation.
13 October 2021 | CBC radio

Yukon at a crossroads with Fortymile caribou herd

This longer news story talks about the past and future of the Fortymile herd, shared between Yukon and Alaska. If raises questions about land use, and also about what constitutes an appropriate or optimal size for a caribou herd.
7 October 2021 | The Narwhal

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

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)

How eight idle wells might determine the future of oil and gas in Yukon

A proposal to restart testing oil and gas resources in Eagle Plains in northern Yukon is being considered by a territorial board. The areas of the proposed testing overlaps with the wintering area of the Porcupine caribou herd. The proposed project in is Vuntut Gwich'in territory. The first nation says it is anaylzing the project proposal's likely impact on caribou. 
3 June 2021 | The Narwhal

Biden administration puts Arctic refuge leases on ice as it asks for new environmental reviews

A news story about the ongoing controversial potential development of oil and gas in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. This Alaskan refuge contains the calving grounds of the Porcupine caribou herd. Oil and gas leases in the refuge were approved in the dying days of the previous US administration. The current administration has suspended the leases pending review that  that may recommend the leases are “reaffirmed, voided, or subject to additional mitigation measures”.
1 June 2021 | Alaska Public Media

What Human Rights Look Like: Border-Crossing Caribou and a Fight for Environmental Justice

This article focuses on the advocacy of Lenny Kohm, a photographer who worked with Gwich'in (a first nation in the Northwest Territories, Yukon and Alaska) to create the Last Great Wilderness show that focused on opposition to drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge in Alaska contains the calving grounds of the Porcupine caribou herd that migrates between Alaska, Yukon and the Northwest Territories.
23 April 2021 | Network in Canadian History & Environment

The delicate art of stabilizing Yukon’s Fortymile caribou herd

A feature-length article on the new management plan for the Fortymile caribou herd in Yukon. The article talks about the role of hunting in managing the herd size, and the comanagement plans for the herd split between the Yukon government and the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in First Nation.
21 December 2020 | The Narwhal

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

'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

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

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’s biggest caribou herd still faces downward trend, warns report

A 2019 news story on the Beverly and Qamanirjuaq herds that talks about the difficulty of tracking hunting numbers especially due to online sales of caribou meat. It is also critical of increased mineral exploration.
10 January 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

A taste of space: Remote animal observations anddiscrete-choice models provide new insights into foragingand density dynamics for a large subarctic herbivore

An academic paper describing results from anaylzing footage from cameras on caribou collars. The paper focuses on the sorts of food that caribou of the Fortymile herd are eating. This information is important in selecting conservation areas, and in understanding how caribou diets (and numbers) might change in response to climat change.

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Barren-groundFortymileRange managementClimate changeHuman disturbance

consensus agreement respecting implementation of the management plan for northern mountain caribou in the NWT

This is an implementation agreement for the northern mountain caribou management plan in the Northwest Territories. The plan is implemented by the Gwich'in Renewable Resources Board, the Sahtu Renewable Resources Board, and the Government of the Northwest Territories. Northern mountain caribou are listed as a 'species of special concern' nationally and in the NWT. The implementation lays out what parts of the management plan will be fully implemented, and what parts require additional resources.

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Range managementClimate changeHuman disturbanceHunting

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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Managing predatorsClimate changeHuman disturbanceNatural factors

Designated Office Evaluation Report Casino-Rude Road Construction Project

This is a recommendation by a Yukon assessment organization that denies a proposal for a new mining road that would affect two caribou herds, the Fortymile and the Klaza. The recommendation for the road project to not be allowed to proceed was based on a determination that,  "...the Project will result in, or is likely to result in significant adverse effects to Ungulates and Traditional Land Use than cannot be mitigated." The recommendation now goes to the Yukon Government and the federal Deprtment of Fisheries and Oceans for a decision. There is no direct link to this 72-page report prepared by the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board (YESAB). The report is titled "recommendation" and is found under the "documents" tab after following the link to the project on the YESAB site.

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FortymileRange managementHuman disturbance

BQCMB - Draft Nunavut Land Use Plan - 2023

A 11'29" video by the Beverly and Qamairjuaq Caribou Management Board. It aggregates testimony from Indigenous people speaking at hearings into the Nunavut Land Use Plan in Rankin Inlet and Thompson Manitoba. The testimony highlights the importance of protecting caribou habitat, especially calving grounds. The end of the video highlights written statements from organizations expressing the same sentiments.

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Format: video

Beverly and QaminirjuaqBarren-groundHuman disturbance

Caribou as Forest Protectors

An online magazine story generally about caribou and indigenous conservation, it contains a section dealing with the Porcupine herd, quoting Joe Tetlichi, Chair of the Porcupine Caribou Management Board. He discusses climate change, development pressures on the herd's range, hunting management, and the importance of mobilizing Indigenous knowledge.

Why didn’t the caribou (Rangifer tarandus groenlandicus) cross the winter road? The effect of industrial traffic on the road-crossing decisions of caribou

An academic article (not open access) that reports on a study that monitored the behaviour of collared caribou next to a winter road in the Northwest Territories used for mine access. The study found, "Caribou rarely crossed the road when any level of traffic was present; the level of traffic, not the road right-of-way, was the underlying explanatory factor for that behavioural decision." The authors suggest that adjusting traffic levels and frequencies might help mitigate the effect on caribou.
springer (2023)

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Barren-groundRange managementHuman disturbance

Nunavut Impact Review Board Issues Reconsideration Report and Recommendations for Agnico Eagle Mines Limited’s “Meliadine Extension” Project Proposal, related to the Meliadine Gold Mine Project

A news release from the Nunavut Impact review board giving its reasons for turning down a request for a gold mine extension in Nunavut. The request from the Meliadine gold mine north of Rankin inlet would have added 11 years to the mine life, according to the mine owners. The review board highlighted potential effects of the mine expansion on the Qamairjuaq caribou herd and the people who rely on the herd; "...the Board noted high levels of uncertainty as to whether existing or modified mitigation measures would be sufficiently protective to prevent or manage negative effects from the Extension Proposal on caribou; especially when considering critical calving and post-calving periods. The Board also acknowledges that unpredicted negative impacts on caribou would have immediate negative effects on the ability of Inuit, Dene and Denesuline reliant on this herd to harvest caribou, which could have devastating and lasting effects on livelihood, health and culture."
Nunavut Impact Review Board (NIRB) (2023)

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Beverly and QaminirjuaqBarren-groundRange managementHuman disturbance

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)

Effects of vehicle traffic on space use and road crossings of caribou in the Arctic

This academic paper examined the influence of traffic volume on how caribou in Alaska's Central Arctic Herd used their summer range and road crossings. The area studied is crossed by roads to service two oil fields on the North Slope. Previous sudies had suggested that 15 vehicles per hour was the level at which the caribou tended to avoid roads areas and road crossings, but the new study suggests that use of areas near roads picks up when traffic is less than 5 vehicles per hour. The study also fund that insect harassment seemed to be a factor too - when insect harassment was higher, caribou were less likely to be deterred by roads and traffic.

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Format: web

Barren-groundRange managementHuman disturbance

Government of Canada invests $3.8 million to support barrenground caribou conservation in the Northwest Territories

A news release from the Canadian government department of Environment and Climate Change announcing an investment in three caribou projects of $3.8 million, to be matched equally by the government of the Northwest Territories. the releqase says the projects, "will monitor barren-ground caribou, their habitats, and threats that may be affecting herds in the Northwest Territories by using Indigenous and Western science and knowledge. Projects also aim to conserve and protect barren-ground caribou populations and their habitats by working to minimize human and predator impacts, and identifying important barren-ground caribou habitats such as calving grounds and migratory routes for conservation." The release doesn't mention the exact nature of the projects, or the period over which the money will be paid out.
Environment and Climate Change Canada (2022)

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Barren-groundRange managementClimate changeHuman disturbanceNatural factors

Evaluating the impact of caribou habitat restoration on predator and prey movement

An academic paper that looks at the impact on caribou numbers of trying to return seismic lines back to a more natural state. The research found that restoration on seismic lines in northern Alberta slowed wolved and caribou. The assumption is that if both wolves and caribou move more slowly along these sites, it will reduce the likelihood that they run across each other, and so reduce the numbers of caribou killed. The paper suggests further research to test that assumption.

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Range managementHuman disturbance

Update on the global status of wild reindeer and caribou

This online article gives a relatively brief overview of the status of wild caribou and reindeer around the circumpolar world. There are some bright spots, but, "At the global scale, the historical trend continues with declining abundance and contracting distribution for most Rangifer populations." The global population of wild caribou and reindeer is estimated ar 2.43 million, down from 2.8 million in 2016.

The Effect of Traffic Levels on the Distribution and Behaviour of Calving Caribou in an Arctic Oilfield

14 page (without reference list) academic journal article on the effects of traffic and infrastructure on the behaviour of calving caribou from the Central Arctic (barren ground) herd in Alaska. The paper concludes, "some behavioral disturbance and displacement of maternal caribou during calving still occur with convoying of traffic and low traffic frequency. Convoying may reduce the amount of displacement during periods between convoys, which could improve crossing success."

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PorcupineBarren-groundRange managementHuman disturbance

Caribou and Wind Turbines Annotated Bibliography

A 75-page annotated bibliography (this means the original sources are summarized) of sources for information about the effects of wind turbines on caribou. This was a project by Heather Hayne for WWF Canada.

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Format: pdf

Barren-groundRange managementClimate changeHuman disturbance

Caribou and wind turbines (Kivalliq region) - an overview of available information

A 22 slide presentation (exported as a pdf) providing an overview of effects of wind turbine development on Caribou. As the presentation points out, there is little information directly on the effects of wind turbines, so a lot of the information covers the effects of potential related disturbance. The presentation is related to plans to install wind turbines in the Nunavut communities of Baker Lake, Arviat and Rankin Inlet. The presentation was the result of a project by Heather Hayne for WWF Canada.

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Format: presentation

Beverly and QaminirjuaqBarren-groundRange managementClimate changeHuman disturbance

bibliography of sources for caribou and wind turbines

This is a bibliography of sources (both academic and grey literature) that discuss the impact of wind turbines on caribou/reindeer. The resources were compiled by Heather Hayne for WWF Canada.

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Format: pdf

Barren-groundRange managementThreatsClimate changeHuman disturbance

Caribou and reindeer migrations in the changing Arctic

This academic paper looks at factors that affect caribou migration, including climate change and development. it concludes, "...we recommend that large areas of undeveloped critical habitat, like calving grounds, be protected to conserve Rangifer. Where barriers exist, or will exist, migrations will be altered or lost."
Animal Migration (2021)

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Barren-groundRange managementClimate changeHuman disturbanceNatural factors

“These Trees Have Stories to Tell”:Linking Dënesǫ́łıné Oral History of Caribou Use with Trample Scar Frequencyon Black Spruce Roots at Ɂedacho Kué

This academic article combines Indigenous and scientific knowledge to elaborate on the histroy of caribou movements near the Dënesǫ́łıné community of Lutsel K'e (Northwest Territories). It is useful to not only consider the abundance history of the Bathurst and Beverly caribou herds, but also the ways in which the research was locally-directed, and the ways in which the different types of knowledge were used. The paper repeats the contention of local people that disruption caused by mining in the region is largely to blame for the current herd declines.

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Beverly and QaminirjuaqBarren-groundBathurstHuman disturbance


This 11 page document is the agreement by the NWT management authorities responsible for the northern population of mountain caribou (woodland caribou in northern mountain habitat) to add the caribou as "a species of Special Concern" under the NWT Species at Risk Act. The report says that Indigenous knowledge indicates that the population is in decline and that "...northern mountain caribou have the potential to become Threatened if the effects of climate change continue within their habitat and localized threats are not managed effectively."

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Managing huntingRange managementClimate changeHuman disturbanceHunting

A decision support tool for assessing cumulative effects on an Arctic migratory tundra caribou population

This academic paper uses a "caribou cumulative effects model" to examine what would happen to the Porcupine Caribou herd if oil and gas development took place in the herd's calving grounds. It concludes that the likelihood of a decline in the herd would move from 3% to 19% over the next tend years, depending on the development secenario.
ecology and Society (2021)

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PorcupineBarren-groundRange managementHuman disturbance

Estimation of trends in zone of influence of mine sites on barren-ground caribou populations in the Northwest Territories, Canada, using new methods

An academic study looking at how much diamond mines in the Northwest Territories influence habitat used by barren-ground caribou. The study showed these effects varied from year to year. the paper says, "The exact mechanisms that cause caribou to avoid mines, roads and oilfields has not been clearly identified. "

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Barren-groundBathurstRange managementHuman disturbance

Historical Landscape Use of Migratory Caribou: New Insights From Old Antlers

This academic paper uses shed antlers from the Central Arctic Caribou herd in Alaska to trace the herd's historical movements. The analysis shows the herd shifting its range at the same time as oil development was starting to occur in the herd's range.

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Barren-groundRange managementHuman disturbance

Trophic consequences of terrestrial eutrophication for a threatened ungulate

This academic paper looks at the relationship between increased productivity in forests, woodland caribou, wolves, and other prey species such as moose and deer. The greater productivity of forest floor plants caused by cutting down older trees encourages more moose and deer, which in turn bring more wolves that prey on caribou.
proceedings of the royal society B biological sciences (2021)

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Human disturbance

Ice breakers in the Arctic: Let’s talk Inuit safety

A commentary co-written by the Wildlife Conservation Society and the Ekaluktutiak Hunters and Trappers Organization about an initiative to avoid or minimize the impact of icebreakers in Arctic Canada. The Proactive Vessel Management initiative in Cambridge Bay (Ikaluktutiak) used information from local people to create something called a "Notice to Mariners" that gives people in icebreaking boats advice of how best to avoid times or places when local people or caribou are crossing the sea ice, or to minimize any threat posed by icebreaking.
wildlife conservation society/Ekaluktutiak HTO (2020)

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PearyDolphin and UnionRange managementClimate changeHuman disturbance

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

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

caribou and sea ice crossings near Gjoa Haven

This is part of a project website ( 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.

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Range managementClimate changeHuman disturbance


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.

Caribou Use of Habitat Near Energy Development in Arctic Alaska

A 2019 academic paper that looked at the responses of a herd in Alaska to oil and gas development. It says there is growing evidence that caribou do not get used to such developments, and continue to avoid them, reducing the range available to the caribou and disturbing their movements.

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PorcupineHuman disturbance

Vulnerability analysis of the Porcupine Caribou Herd to potential development of the 1002 lands in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska

A 2019 “vulnerability analysis” on the Porcupine caribou herd (PCH) assessing its vulnerability to oil and gas development in the herd’s calving grounds in Alaska. The analysis found that “...the percent probability of the PCH dropping into Orange and Red Zones (where legislated harvest restrictions are imposed) is increased by 10% -18% (Alt D2-Alt B) compared to baseline conditions.”
Yukon Department of Environment (2019)

Does Dust from Arctic Mines Affect Caribou Forage?

A 2017 paper assessing the impacts of dust from a mining haul road in the NWT on vegetation used by caribou. The paper concluded that dust from the road negatively affected the vegetation within a range of one kilometre.

Format: web

Human disturbance

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)

NWMB Workshop Report: “Protecting Caribou and their Habitat”

This 2015 workshop report from the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board is on finding a balance between resource development and caribou in Nunavut. The report includes detailed information on the seasonal sensitivities for the different barren-ground caribou herds in Nunavut in Appendix A. Many of the files prepared for the workshop above with even more detailed information are available on the website of the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board.  
Nunavut Wildlife Management Board (NWMB) (2015)

Format: pdf

Human disturbance

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)

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)

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)

the refuge

This is a series of podcasts (11 altogether), most about half an hour long, focusing on the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, calving ground of the Porcupine caribou herd. This in-depth series looks at the ongoing push to allow oil and gas development in the refuge. It includes the voices of Indigenous peoples who live nearby, and depend on the caribou herd. The series started in 2019, and updates were added in 2020 and 2021.
Threshold (202)

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PorcupineBarren-groundRange managementClimate changeHuman disturbance

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