Barren-ground Caribou

Bluenose-East, Bluenose-West and Cape Bathurst Herds


The results of satellite tracking and genetic studies done between 1996 and 2003 showed three genetically distinct herds using different seasonal ranges (calving and rutting) in an area once thought of as one "Bluenose" caribou herd. Since 2000, these animals have been surveyed and managed as distinct herds.

A Management Plan for the Cape Bathurst, Bluenose-West and Bluenose-East herds has been finalized by the Advisory Committee for the Cooperation on Wildlife Management.

The Management Plan addresses the need to develop a cooperative approach to managing for the herds, protect the habitat in the herds’ range, and make decisions on the shared harvests in an open and fair manner. It was developed in consultation with the communities that harvest from the three herds.

The Bluenose Caribou Management Plan Community Report is a companion document to the Management Plan. It provides further community knowledge. A Technical Report provides recent scientific knowledge and status of these herds as well as gaps in knowledge and research suggestions are presented for consideration by the co-management boards responsible for managing for these herds.

Bluenose-East herd

The Bluenose-East herd was estimated at 104,000 animals in 2000. The herd has declined except for a brief increase between 2006 and 2010 followed by another decline.

Recent estimates of the Bluenose-East herd are:

2010               121,000-123,000 animals

2013               68,000 animals

2015               39,000 animals

2018               19,000 animals

2021               23,200 (up  from 19,300 in 2018)

Resident, outfitted and commercial harvest of the Bluenose-East caribou herd has been suspended since 2006.

As of 2019, a total harvest of 193 bulls is allowed in Wek'èezhìi, but actual harvest has been much lower in recent years.

As the primary harvesting community of the Bluenose-East herd in the Sahtú region, Délı̨nę has implemented its own community-based caribou conservation plan, which supports a limited harvest of 150 caribou (mostly bulls) and allows for community self-regulation of caribou harvesting.

In January 2020, the GNWT and Tłı̨chǫ Government submitted a joint proposal for wolf management on the winter ranges of Bathurst and Bluenose-East caribou. This proposal will guide our actions over the next five years to help reduce the impacts of predation on these herds, and support their recovery.

Bluenose-West herd

The Bluenose-West herd was estimated at about 112,000 animals in 1992. Following a decline since then the most recent population estimate in 2012 indicates the herd in stable at minimum.

Recent estimates of the herd are:

2005               21,000 animals

2006               18,000 animals

2009               18,000 animals

2012               20,000 animals

2015               21,000 animals

2018               21,000 animals

2021               18,440 animals

Resident, outfitted and commercial harvest of the Bluenose-West herd has been suspended since 2006.

Aboriginal harvest of the herd is limited with a current quota of 345 animals for the Inuvialuit, 350 animals for the Sahtú and 22 animals for the Gwich’in. An 80 per cent bull harvest is recommended.

Cape Bathurst herd

The Cape Bathurst herd was estimated at about 19,000 animals in the early 1990s.

Recent estimates for the herd are:

2005               2,400 animals

2006               2,600 animals

2009               1,900 animals

2012               2,400 animals

2015               2,500 animals

2018               4,500 animals

2021               4,913 animals

All harvest of the Cape Bathurst herd has been suspended since 2007. The herd’s calving grounds on the Cape Bathurst Peninsula are protected through the Community Conservation Plans and provisions in the Inuvialuit Final Agreement. The area is also recognized as a Critical Wildlife Area between May 15 and June 15.