Boreal Caribou Sustainable Harvest Assessment Report Released

News Releases

Yellowknife — October 5, 2021

The Government of the Northwest Territories has released a report from an independent consultant with expertise in caribou modelling. The report focuses on sustainable harvest levels for boreal caribou across the southern NWT.

Boreal caribou are listed as a threatened species in Canada and the NWT. ENR monitors boreal caribou population trends in the South Slave, Dehcho and North Slave regions. ENR measures adult female survival and calf recruitment rates in these areas on an annual basis and uses this information to calculate an index of whether the population is increasing, stable or decreasing from one year to the next. This information was shared with the consultant to be used in the caribou modelling.

The report found population trends of boreal caribou in most areas are increasing and can continue to sustain some level of harvest. In this study, the long-term (10 yrs.) boreal caribou population trend south of Great Slave Lake in the South Slave region was found to be stable, and the population trend south of the Mackenzie River in the Dehcho region was found to be slowly decreasing. These trends were estimated in the absence of any harvesting. Any level of continued harvest in these two areas might contribute to declines.

The report was commissioned by the GNWT to address community concerns about levels of boreal caribou harvesting in the southern NWT, commitments to assess sustainable harvest levels for boreal caribou in the North Slave region before completion of the Tłı̨chǫ All-Season Road, and research and monitoring commitments of all co-management partners under federal and territorial boreal caribou recovery strategies.

Indigenous governments and organizations, renewable resource boards, and other affected parties have been notified of this report.

The next step is to work with co-management partners to consider this new information to help conserve and recover boreal caribou. If there are recommendations to limit or restrict resident harvest, the GNWT will engage the public to provide input on the proposed recommendations.


“The GNWT continues to work with our co-management partners to wisely and sustainably manage boreal caribou populations for future generations. This report will support our ongoing efforts to conserve boreal caribou across the territory.”

- Shane Thompson, Minister of Environment and Natural Resources

Quick facts

  • There are an estimated 6,000-7,000 boreal caribou in the NWT.
  • Overall the NWT boreal caribou population appears stable, but there is evidence of declines in some areas of the southern NWT. 
  • Habitat loss is a major threat to boreal caribou populations across Canada, and the GNWT and its co-management partners are currently developing 5 range plans to protect critical habitat across the NWT.
  • This study analyzed data from 10 years of boreal caribou monitoring (2008-2018) and looked at 8 study areas in the southern NWT.
  • The result of the modelling scenarios suggests any harvest would impact boreal caribou numbers in the Dehcho South, Hay River Lowlands, and Pine Point/Buffalo Lake areas.
  • Harvesting bulls impacts populations less than harvesting cows.

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For media requests, please contact:

Mike Westwick

Manager, Communications and Public Affairs

Environment and Natural Resources

Government of the Northwest Territories