Boreal Caribou


Boreal caribou are a distinct population of woodland caribou. They are the largest subspecies of caribou in the NWT in terms of size.

Males weigh an average of 150 kg and can reach 1.2 m high at the shoulder. Their brown summer coat turns greyish in winter. In all seasons their neck, mane, underbelly, rump and a patch above each hoof are creamy white. Antlers of woodland caribou are thicker and broader compared to those of barren-ground caribou.

Boreal caribou are similar to northern mountain caribou, the other population of woodland caribou found in the NWT but have different habitat preferences and behaviour.


Boreal caribou live in the forests east of the Mackenzie Mountains. Their range covers more than 44 million hectares in the NWT and part of northeastern Yukon. Boreal caribou do not migrate; they tend to live in small groups and prefer to stay within the forest all year. Females disperse throughout the forests for calving to reduce the risk of predation.

Approximately 71 per cent of boreal caribou range in the NWT is considered undisturbed, with most of the habitat disturbance caused by forest fires.


Boreal caribou range in the NWT


Boreal caribou populations have declined in most of their range across Canada. In the NWT, the population of Boreal caribou is estimated to be between 6,000 and 7,000 animals.

Population trends vary across the NWT. Boreal caribou numbers appear to be stable or increasing in some parts of the territory. However, there is evidence of population decline in the southern part of the NWT where the majority of the territory’s Boreal caribou occur.

Species at Risk status

Boreal caribou were listed as Threatened on the NWT List of Species at Risk in February 2014. They were listed as Threatened under the federal Species at Risk Act in 2003.

Harvest Management

  • The season for harvesting Boreal caribou by NWT Resident Hunting Licence and General Hunting Licence holders is between July 15 and December 15.
  • Resident Hunting Licence holders can only harvest one bull (male) per year.
  • There are currently no seasons or limits for Indigenous Harvesters and Aboriginal Rights Holders.
  • For more information see the NWT Summary of Hunting and Trapping Regulations
  • Remember to complete the Resident Hunter Harvest Survey or please share harvest information with your Local Harvesting Committee.

Range planning

Range plans are tools for decision-makers, developers and communities to help manage activities on the land in a way that supports caribou conservation.

Together with co-management partners, a Framework for Boreal Caribou Range Planning was put in place to guide the development of five regional Boreal caribou range plans across the NWT between 2019 and 2023.

These regional plans will maintain at least 65 per cent undisturbed habitat within the Northwest Territories (NWT) range of boreal caribou over the long term, as required by the federal Boreal Caribou Recovery Strategy.

The goal of these plans is to ensure a healthy and sustainable Boreal caribou population across their NWT range that offers harvesting opportunities for present and future generations.

Range planning updates

NEW: Interim Wek’èezhìı Boreal Caribou Range Plan now complete

Recovery Strategy

Boreal Caribou Recovery Strategy for the NWT was released by the Conference of Management Authorities in March 2017, followed by an Implementation Agreement in November 2017.

The recovery strategy was developed collaboratively by boreal caribou co-management authorities in the NWT, with input from Indigenous governments, Indigenous organizations and the public. It sets out goals, objectives and recommended approaches to ensure a healthy and sustainable Boreal caribou population across their NWT range that offers harvesting opportunities for present and future generations.

national recovery strategy was released in 2012. The strategy identifies critical habitat for Boreal caribou as a minimum of 65 percent of undisturbed habitat throughout their range. The Amended Recovery Strategy for the Woodland Caribou done in 2020 can be found here


Boreal caribou study reports

There are a number of research and monitoring projects being conducted on boreal caribou in different regions of the NWT. The purpose of these initiatives is to increase our knowledge of Boreal caribou in order to help inform decision-making

Dehcho boreal caribou study reports

South Slave Boreal Caribou Program progress report