The Bathurst caribou is named for Bathurst Inlet, the general area of the herd’s traditional calving grounds.
They are part of the barren-ground caribou, a key northern species. Caribou have shaped the cultural identity of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples over millennia through mutual relationships built on respect.
- FACT SHEET: Bathurst Caribou
The Bathurst caribou range (or use of habitat) extends from southern and central Northwest Territories (NWT) to the Bathurst Inlet in Nunavut. In some years, they have wintered as far south as northern Saskatchewan.
The Bathurst caribou herd has suffered a dramatic decline in numbers from a high of roughly 470,000 in the mid-1980s to a low of about 6,240 today. In the latest population counts, the overall rate of decline has slowed from what was seen before 2018. Some indicators like how many cows (females) survive, and how many calves there are compared to cows have improved. However, the situation remains serious.
Population surveys since 2003 indicate a rapid decline in the population size. The rate of decline has slowed compared to counts prior to 2018, but the situation remains serious.
2003 186,000 animals
2006 128,000 animals
2009 32,000 animals
2012 35,000 animals
2015 20,000 animals
2018 8,200 animals
2021 6,240 animals
Recovery and Conservation Actions
- As of today, the Bathurst herd is at critical low status. This means strong management actions need to remain in place to support recovery.
- There is no harvest of Bathurst caribou allowed in the NWT. A Mobile Core Bathurst Caribou Conservation Area was put in place in 2015 to protect the herd.
- View a map updated weekly showing where caribou cannot be harvested to protect the Bathurst herd – known as the Mobile Core Bathurst Caribou Conservation Area
- Efforts to reduce the impact of wolf predation are underway on the winter range of the Bathurst herd. A joint wolf-management program implemented led by the Tłîchô Government and Government of the Northwest Territories provides incentives for wolf harvesters and supports the traditional economy.
- Learn more: Wolf Management
- Indigenous-led Guardian programs are in place to monitor the herd’s health and harvest levels. .
- Promotion of safe and respectful harvesting practices in collaboration with Indigenous governments and organizations and guardianship programs. This includes regular enforcement patrols by ground and air in the mobile zone and along the winter road.
- Population surveys completed every two years to reassess herd status and health, and radio-collars are used to monitor caribou throughout the year.
- Read more: Barren Ground Caribou Population Surveys