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Declines in NWT Barrenground Caribou Continue

News Releases

YELLOWKNIFE (September 28, 2015) –  Population surveys completed this summer on  the Bluenose East, Bluenose West, Bathurst, Cape Bathurst and Tuktoyaktuk Peninsula barren-ground caribou herds in the Northwest Territories indicate the herds continue to decline.

“The GNWT continues to work collaboratively with all of its co-management partners on efforts to conserve barren-ground caribou herds,” said the Minister of Environment and Natural Resources (ENR) J. Michael Miltenberger. “This includes work to complete an inter-jurisdictional agreement with the Government of Nunavut to collaborate on research, monitoring and management actions for shared herds; implementation of a management plan for the Cape Bathurst, Bluenose-West and Bluenose-East herds; developing a mechanism for the long-term management of the Bathurst herd; and completing a range plan for the Bathurst herd.”

The surveys done in June and July by ENR indicate the number of animals in the Bathurst herd has dropped from about 32,000 in 2012 to approximately 16,000 – 22,000 in 2015.   The number of breeding cows, a crucial indicator of herd health, has dropped by 50% to approximately 8,000.  In 1986, the herd was approximately 470,000 strong.

Preliminary survey results indicate that the Bluenose-East herd has also declined from approximately 68,000 animals in 2013 to an estimate of between 35,000 – 40,000 caribou.  Population data indicates the number of breeding cows in the herd dropped by 50% from 34,000 in 2013 to 17,000 in 2015.

Survey results indicate the Bluenose-West herd population has dropped from 20,000 in 2012 to about 15,000.

The Cape Bathurst herd has declined from about 2,400 in 2012 to 2,260 animals. The herd population was about 19,000 in 1992.

The Tuktoyaktuk Peninsula population is now estimated to be 1,701 animals, down from 2,192 in 2012.

These declines are not unique to herds in the NWT. Barrenground caribou herds in Alaska and Nunavut are also declining. ENR notes the declining trend in the Bathurst and Bluenose-East caribou herds is consistent with generally declining trends in migratory tundra caribou herds in North America, including the George River and Leaf  River herds in Quebec/Labrador; Qaminirjuaq herd in Nunavut; and, Teshekpuk herds in Alaska.  The Porcupine herd is one of the few exceptions with an increasing trend.

“Although the evidence is incomplete, we suspect these further declines, in large part, reflect poor environmental conditions, possibly on the summer range, are leading to reduced pregnancy rates and reduced calf survival rates,” says ENR Ungulates Wildlife Biologist Jan Adamczewski.

A final report on the population survey results will be released later this fall.

Media inquiries:

Andrew Livingstone
Senior Cabinet Communications Advisor
Government of the Northwest Territories
NEW NUMBER: (867) 767-9000 ext. 11091
Email: andrew_livingstone@gov.nt.ca