Hunting

There is no doubt that hunting methods have changed markedly with the introduction of modern hunting technologies.

Rifles, snowmobiles and planes, and aerial surveillance techniques have enabled hunters to more easily find and kill caribou. The exact impact of hunting is unknown, as across most of the north there are no reliable numbers on how many are taken. However, it is clear from both scientific and Indigenous knowledge sources that reducing hunting pressure plays a part in helping herds recover.

When we talk about hunting, for the most part, we are not talking about sport hunting but subsistence hunting. In some areas, sport hunting has been closed completely, such as hunting on the Leaf River herd in Nunavik (northern Quebec), and barren-ground caribou in the Northwest Territories. In Nunavut, the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board is considering limits on sport hunting for particular herds.

In Nunavut, concerns were raised after the caribou population on Baffin Island plummeted. A workshop report from 2013 noted that, “As the human population on Baffin Island increases (approx. 60% of all Nunavummiut), the demand for country food and basic needs level of harvest may be exceeding the sustainable replacement needs of the wild caribou population.” Demand can go far beyond any given region. There are now sales over the Internet, and caribou meat is shipped to a variety of places.  As caribou populations decline, hunting often does not decline at the same rate, and so it can accelerate the decline of caribou herds.

Respect

A lack of respect for caribou is consistently raised as an issue by Indigenous knowledge sources from peoples across northern Canada. The lack of respect is shown by actions that do not follow traditional codes of behaviour in dealing with caribou. That respect can include preparations for the hunt, the way the hunt is managed, the way the meat is shared, the preparation of items made from the caribou, and the disposal of any leftover parts such as bones. The lack of respect is cited by several elders as a factor in the decline of local abundance of caribou.

 One of the caribou management boards has put together some common elements of respectful practice in harvesting caribou:

  • Respecting your neighbour’s traditional hunting lands.
  • Sighting in your rifle and taking careful shots.
  • Shooting bulls instead of cows, when possible, during periods when caribou herds are declining or small.
  • Recovering your kill and all wounded animals.
  • Handling and storing caribou meat and parts carefully.
  • Leaving the land and waters clean and tidy.
  • Making use of ALL parts of caribou. 

 

Related news

Necessity of gov't quota on caribou harvesting debated at final day of Colville Lake hearing

A story outlining arguments on the final day of a court case brought to determine who sets caribou conservation rules for harvesting caribou from the Bluenose West herd in the Northwest Territories. The Small Dene community of Colville Lake is arguing rules developed by the community should take precedence, while the government insists that its approach that includes harvest limits should be applied.
14 November 2022 | CBC north

Colville Lake caribou court challenge begins in N.W.T.

A First Nation in the Sahtu region of the NWT is taking the NWT government to court over the question of rights to apply its own caribou conservation plan rather than the plan applied by the territorial government. The Behdzi Ahda First Nation in Colville Lake argues that a quota ssytem for the Bluenose West caribou herd should be set aside on the First Nation territory, and its own community conservation plan should take precedence. The Sahtu Renewable Resources Board is supporting the community's position, while the Inuvialuit Game Council supports the territorial government position.
10 November 2022 | cbc north

NWT opens another illegal caribou harvest investigation

A news story about investigations into potential illegal hunting of Bathurst caribou in the Northwest Territories. The herd has shrunk by 98% from its highest levels. The territorial government instituted a mobile zone within which the caribou should not be killed to protect the remainder of the herd. The remains of caribou hunted within this zone were reportedly found by conservation staff.
19 September 2022 | Cabin Radio

ARE MIGRATING CARIBOU LOSING THE COLLECTIVE MEMORY THEY RELY ON TO SURVIVE?

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)

Increase in caribou harvest for Baffin region to continue for next 8 years

The Nunavut government has approved a plan to increase the number of Baffin Island caribou that can be killed. The hunting quota for the caribou goes up by 100 this year (from 250 to 350) then continues to increase by 50 per year "for the next eight years or until new information becomes available requiring changes". The quota increase is based on an assumption that the caribou will otherwise outstrip the recovery of lichen, a major food source for the caribou.
25 July 2022 | cbc north

Baffin wildlife board makes case for increasing caribou harvest

 A wildlife board representing Inuit in Northeast Nunavut (Qikiqtaaluk Wildlife Board) wants to see an increase in caribou quotas on Baffin Island. The number of caribou on Baffin Island has shrunk drastically in recent years. Local Inuit say the caribou are now increasing, and Inuit knowledge tells them the herds will outstrip the available forage if more are not taken. Meanwhile, Inuit in the northwest of Nunavut want to see the Dolphin and Union herd move from "special concern" to "endangered" under the federal species at risk legislation. That herd was estimated to number about 4,000 in 2018.
17 June 2022 | cbc north

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/b-c-makes-contentious-change-to-moose-caribou-hunt-in-northeast-1.6461683

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

Parts of Northwest Alaska will be closed to nonlocal caribou and moose hunters the next 2 summers

A regulatory body in Alaska has closed off caribou and moose hunting in an area in the Northwest of the state to anyone but local residents. Local people "...asked for closures to preserve the declining moose and caribou population, restore the caribou migration pattern and protect subsistence resources desperately needed during the pandemic." 2021 figures show the Western Arctic caribou herd has declined by almost a quarter over the two years previous to the 2021 count.
4 April 2022 | Alaska Daily News

https://nunatsiaq.com/stories/article/northern-caribou-management-board-fails-to-secure-budget-boost/

A story about the quest of the Beverly and Qamanirjuaq caribou management board to double its budget, in part to pay for an updated management plan for the herds. There's also a reference in the story to incresed pressures of sport hunting on the herds.
1 April 2022 | Nunatsiaq news

Death threat aimed at chief of B.C. First Nation over proposed changes to moose, caribou hunting

A news story about how proposed changes to hunting regulations have resulted in death threats against members of a First Nation. The proposed changes follow a court ruling that treaty agreements have been violated due to cumative effects of development on populations of caribou and other animals.
28 March 2022 | CBC

Public help sought to identify illegal caribou harvesters

A brief news story about more apparent illiegal hunting of caribou in the Bathurst herd. Hunting restrictions were put in place to help conserve the herd which has slipped from a high of 400,000 animals down to less than 7,000.
17 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

N.W.T. judge tasked with clearing 'log jam' built by differing caribou worldviews

A news story about a court challenge lodged by Sahtu communities after the Northwest Territories government rejected a community conservation plan for the Bluenose West herd.The Colville Lake Renewable Resources Council (CLRRC), Behdzi Ahda First Nation and Ayoni Keh Land Corporation and the Sahtu Renewable Resources Board are challenging the decision. The herd is officially estimated at about fewer than 19,000 animals, down from a high of 110,000.
3 March 2022 | cbc north

Sharing the Bounty

A news story discussing the "Traditional Mutual Understanding" between Cree and Innu First Nations giving Innu hunters permission to harvest up to 300 caribou from the Leaf River herd on Cree territory this winter. The story outines some of the protocols to be followed in the hunt.
23 February 2022 | Toronto Star

N.W.T. wildlife officers investigate possible caribou poaching near MacKay Lake

A news story about potential caribou poaching north of Yellowknife, NWT. A helicopter patrol along the winter road system spotted some caribou being hunted inside a prohibited zone set up to protect the Bathurst caribou herd.
18 February 2022 | CBC North

Cree and Innu sign agreement over caribou harvest in Cree territory

A news story about the agreement between Cree and Innu First Nations allowing Innu communities to hunt caribou on Cree territory. The Innu communities can take 2300 caribou this year under the terms of the agreement. the caribou come from the Leaf River herd. The George River herd on which the Innu communities had previously relied is at only one percent of it's peak recoreded population in 1990, and hunting the herd is banned. "For us, this community hunt will not only meet a need for our Elders' food security, but also perpetuate a sharing relationship that dates back to time immemorial," said Chief Mike McKenzie, Chief of the Innu community of Uashat Mak Mani-utenam and spokesperson for the nine Innu communities.
31 January 2022 | CBC North

Bluenose East caribou hunting limit set at 170 tags as herd continues to decline: GN

short news story about a government of Nunavut decision to limit harvest from the Bluenose East herd at 170 animals this year. The herd is mostly hunted by people from Kugluktuk in its Nunavut range. the herd size was estimated at 19,000 in 2018, down from 120,000 in 2010.
15 November 2021 | Nunavut 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

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

Colville Lake challenging caribou decision in court

A news story about the Northwest Territories community of Colville Lake (Behdzi Ahda First Nation) asking the NWT Supreme Court to rule on the application of the tag and quota system for caribou hunting. The community had developed its own conservation plan for hunting the Bluenose East herd, a plan that was approved by the Sahtu renewable Resources Board. The Territorial Minister of Environment and Natural Resources over-ruled the Board's decision citing the herd's continuing low numbers.
7 June 2021 | CBC north

Don’t waste caribou, Kivalliq HTO tells hunters

A spokesperson for the local Hunters and Trappers Organization in Rankin Inlet, Nunavut urges people to not waste parts of the caribou they hunt. The story speaks of anecdotal evidence that people are leaving less sought-after parts of the caribou behind. 
7 May 2021 | Nunatsiaq News (Nunavut)

ENR seeking information on wasted caribou in Aklavik

A news story about finding wasted caribou meat near Aklavik, NWT. Stories from earleir this year taked about wasted caribou meat in the Yellowknife region.
3 May 2021 | Cabin Radio (NWT)

Dene governments in N.W.T. launch ice road caribou harvest monitoring

An online news story about Indigenous governments monitoring caribou hunting along the ice road north of Yellowknife. Both the Tli'cho government and Yellowknives Dene have set up monitoring stations in the area, adding to the checks by the government of the Northwest Territories. The Indigenous-run checkpoints are not enforcing rules, just watching hunters and caribou.
19 April 2021 | APTN

Ulukhaktok asked not to hunt caribou until July 15

The Hunters and Trappers Association in the Victoria Island community of Ulukhaktok (NWT) has asked people to voluntarily hold off on hunting the Dolphin and Union caribou herd until calving is over this year. The unique herd migrates across the sea ice between the mainland and Victoria Island. At last count, the herd was down to about 4,000 animals. 
13 April 2021 | Cabin Radio (NWT)

Listen: Monitoring the Tibbitt to Contwoyto Winter Road for illegal caribou harvesting

A multimedia page, including an 11 minute sound file focusing on the problems with illegal hunting on the ice road north of Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories.
13 April 2021 | CKLB (NWT)

monitoring caribou on the winter road

This is an online story and 4'23" video talking about the efforts to monitor caribou hunting in the area north of Yellowknofe. Recent concerns about bad hunting practices, including meat wastage are mentioned.
2 April 2021 | Cabin radio (NWT)

Caribou pay when Dene laws are broken

An opinion column that talks about the importance of traditional Indigenous hunting practices for caribou conservation. The author lists some of the traditional hunting laws, and the responsibility of communities to enforce those laws.
29 March 2021 | Northern news service

Premier says government won’t regulate online caribou meat sales

The government of Nunavut says it cannot regulate the online sales of caribou meat after concerns were raised by local politicians about the impact of such sales on the  Qamanirjuaq herd. The government says it cannot interfere because of the terms of the Nunavut land claim, so the issue should be taken to the land claims organization, Nunavut Tunggavik Incorporated (NTI). NTI says the volume of sales and the impact on caribou numbers are uncertain, so it is "premature to propose restrictions".
22 March 2021 | Nunatsiaq News

No disrespect – but the Bathurst caribou situation is grim

This opinion piece talks about the impact of hunting from a winter road on the Bathurst caribou herd. The author suggests that the road, used to resupply diamond mines north of Yellowknife, should be closed to the public
17 March 2021 | NWT News/north

Illegal hunting of caribou herds along winter roads running rampant

A news story about an increase in caribou hunting infractions in the Northwest Territories. There are particular concerns about meat wastage and bad hunting practices along the access roads to the diamond mines northeast of Yellowknife. NWT officials say "they are currently investigating the illegal harvest of over 50 caribou so far this winter, compared to less than 10 at this point last year." 
10 March 2021 | CBC North

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

Kitikmeot caribou herd survey complete; interim hunting limit decision still under review

This nes story talk about a new survey being done on the Dolphin and Union Caribou herd. it also mentions that a proposed harvest limit on the herd is still not confirmed.
15 December 2020 | Nunavut News

Agreement signed for Fortymile caribou herd management plan

A story about the signing of an agreement between the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in First Nation and the Yukon government on a management plan for the Fortymile caribou herd. The herd has been increasing, and management includes an allowable harvest. According to Yukon's Environment Minister, the management plan has three main goals, "promote a robust, sustainable population that will maximize the herd’s use of habitats within historical Yukon ranges; provide a phased approach to implementing harvest, given the long history of no-harvest of this herd; and increase knowledge and use of the herd through education and engagement."
15 December 2020 | yukon 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

Hunting restrictions imposed after another Nunavut caribou herd dwindles

This news story talks about hunting restrictions being placed on the Dolphin and Union herd in Nunavut. The unique herd that migrates between the Victoria island and the mainland saw its population drop to about 4,000 in the last (2018) survey. The new quota allows people from local communities to take 42 caribou. Last year, just one community took as many as 200.
12 November 2020 | cbc north

Nunavut premier hears discontent over caribou quotas and meat sales at NTI meeting

News story from a meeting of the Nunavut land claim organization, Nunavut Tunggavik Incorporated. It cover discussions over quotas for caribou herds, and about the sustainability of selling of caribou meat between regions in Nunavut. Nunavut's premier points out that the right to sell or barter wild food is written into the Nunavut claim, so it is not something his government can regulate. 
21 October 2020 | Nunatsiaq news

Nunavut government limits hunting of Dolphin and Union caribou

The Nunavut government has restricted hunting of the Dolphin and Union herd to 42 animals this year, due to steep declines in the herd's size. The herd is classified as endangered by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada.
10 September 2020 | Nunatsiaq News

First Nation raises alarm after Yukon opens caribou hunt without herd management plan

A news story about a disagreement over opening up harvest of the Forty Mile herd (shared between Alaska and Yukon). The Yukon government has opened up a limited hunt of the herd. A local First Nation (Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in) that uses the herd doesn't believe it should be open to hunting until a management plan is in place.
26 August 2020 | Aboriginal Peoples Television Network

Inuit government renews call to respect ban on George River caribou harvest in Atlantic Canada

A 2020 news story about Nunatsiavut (northern Labrador Inuit region) beneficiaries and restrictions on caribou hunting.
28 January 2020 | RCI

Nunavut government asks to lower caribou hunt on Bluenose East herd, ban Bathurst harvest

A 2020 news story about the Nunavut government proposal to lower hunting quotas on the Bluenose-East herd, and eliminate the quota for the Bathurst herd. The story talks about community hardships that would result from the quota changes, and potential increased pressure on the Dolphin and Union herd.
13 January 2020 | CBC

Arctic Canada: Nunavut government asks to lower caribou hunt, which could impact local communities

A 2020 news story about the impacts of proposed changes to the total allowable harvest for Bluenose-East and Bathurst caribou herds. The story focuses on the Nunavut community of Kugluktuk.
13 January 2020 | CBC

First Nation bans Indigenous harvest of declining caribou herd in northern Quebec

The Cree Nation Government has voted in favour of a ban on Cree hunters harvesting caribou from the George River herd, whose numbers have seen a decline of 99 per cent since 2001.
8 January 2020 | Radio Canada International

Parties celebrate caribou management accord

Five Indigenous governments with a cultural connection to the Porcupine caribou have signed off on a new approach to manage the harvest if the herd gets into trouble.
28 August 2019 | Whitehorse Daily Star

Let them pass: PCMB recommends hunters stop harvesting Porcupine caribou during migration

Hunters are being urged to lay off harvesting Porcupine caribou so that the herd can make it to its traditional winter range.
7 August 2019 | Yukon News

Nunavut government appeals decision to halt case against Igloolik hunter

The Government of Nunavut says that the territory’s chief justice “erred” when he let an Igloolik hunter off the hook for illegally harvesting a caribou during the 2015 Baffin Island caribou ban.
30 July 2019 | Nunatsiaq News

Tradition versus technology: Northerners debate use of drones in caribou hunting

New N.W.T. wildlife regulations in effect since July 1 defer decision on drone use
8 July 2019 | CBC

Another Nunavut caribou herd faces decline

A 2016 news story about the Nunavut Government’s concern about Internet-driven sales of caribou meat.
4 March 2016 | Nunatsiaq News

Related resources

Honouring the ways of our ancestors, the Cree and Innu Nations sign a traditional understanding built from the customary values of sharing, sustainable harvest and respect for the caribou

This 3 page news release outlines the terms of an agreement between the Cree Nation of Eeyou Istchee (James Bay region of Northern Quebec) and the Innu Nation of Québec on sharing caribou resources in the region. The release notes, "In the last decade, the many Indigenous nations that depend on caribou for their food security and the preservation of their culture have been significantly impacted by the decline of caribou populations, especially those depending on the George River herd - last estimated in 2020 to have dropped to 8,100 animals." The agreement gives the nine Innu communities access to caribou in Cree territory, up to 300 animals in 2021-22.
(2022)

Usage: Non-commercial with attribution
Format: web

George RiverLeaf RiverManaging huntingHunting

Closure of Baffin Island Caribou harvest

A brief news release from the government of Nunavut announcing the closure of hunting for caribou on Baffin Island as hunters have used the 250 tags in the total allowable harvest. The last population estimate for the Baffin herd in 2014 put the number at 4,652. 
(2022)

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Format: web

Baffin IslandManaging huntingHunting

NWT CONFERENCE OF MANAGEMENT AUTHORITIES CONSENSUS AGREEMENT ON LISTING NORTHERN MOUNTAIN CARIBOU

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."
(2021)

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Format: web

Managing huntingRange managementClimate changeHuman disturbanceHunting

Population Estimate of the Dolphin and Union Caribou herd (Rangifer tarandus groenlandicus x pearyi) Coastal Survey, October 2018 and Demographic Indicators

This 49 page (in English) report contains executive summaries in Inuktitut (both syllabics and western orthography). It shows that the Dophin and Union herd has declined to an estimated 4,105 in 2018, down from 17,000 in 2015. The Dophin and Union herd is unique, being neither barren-ground nor Peary caribou. It migrates between Victoria Island and the mainland. 
Government of Nunavut (2020)

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Format: pdf

Dolphin and UnionClimate changeHunting

Barren-ground Caribou Survey Results FAQ

A 6-page document on the barren-ground caribou surveys conducted by the Government of the Northwest Territories in 2018.
Government of the Northwest Territories (2018)

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Format: pdf

Barren-groundHunting

Innu Nation threatening future of George River caribou

A news release from the Nunatsiavut Government talking about the strained relations with the neighboring Innu over hunting of the George River herd.
Nunatsiavut Government (2018)

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Format: pdf

George RiverHunting

Caribou Sex Identification Card - Carte postale : Identification du caribou

A poster showing how to tell the difference between male and female caribou.  
Government of the Northwest Territories (2017)

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Format: pdf

Hunting

The Importance of Respectful Harvest

This 12 minute video is part one of the "You can make a difference" video produced by the Beverly and Qamanirjuaq Caribou Management Board.
Beverly and Qamanirjuaq Caribou Management Board (2017)

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Format: video

Beverly and QaminirjuaqManaging huntingPeopleHunting

Cumulative Effects

This 10-minute video is part three of the "You can make a difference" video produced by the Beverly and Qamanirjuaq Caribou Management Board.
Beverly and Qamanirjuaq Caribou Management Board (2017)

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Format: video

Beverly and QaminirjuaqManaging huntingHunting

The Importance of Harvest Reporting

This 8-minute video is part two of the "You can make a difference" video produced by the Beverly and Qamanirjuaq Caribou Management Board  
Beverly and Qamanirjuaq Caribou Management Board (2017)

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Format: video

Beverly and QaminirjuaqManaging huntingHunting

General Approach to Harvest Modeling for Barren-ground Caribou Herds in the NWT and Recommendations on Harvest Based on Risk Status

A 39-page academic paper from 2016 designed to help assess the impact of hunting on barren-ground caribou herds, based on the population size and trend of a given herd.
Government of the Northwest Territories (2016)

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Format: pdf

Barren-groundManaging huntingHunting

Sample Sizes of Collared Barren-ground Caribou to Estimate Herd Size in Winter and Fall Management Areas to Allow Assesment of Harvest Risk

A 2016 academic paper that analyzes how many caribou it is necessary to collar to reliably define proportions of each herd in harvest areas in fall and winter. It concludes that at least 20 collars are required per herd.
Government of the Northwest Territories (2016)

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Format: pdf

Barren-groundManaging huntingHunting

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)

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)