Caribou herds and populations in Canada facts for kids
Caribou herds in Canada are discrete populations of the four subspecies, Rangifer tarandus—Barren ground (R. t. groenlandicus), Woodland (R. t. caribou), Grant's (R. t. granti), and Peary (R. t. pearyi), —and their ecotypes, that are represented in Canada. Caribou herds can be found from the High Arctic region south to the boreal forest and Rocky Mountains and from the east to the west coasts.
Arctic peoples, including the Caribou Inuit, the inland-dwelling Inuit of the Kivalliq Region in northern Canada, the Caribou Clan in Yukon, the Iñupiat, the Inuvialuit, the Hän, the Northern Tutchone, and the Gwich'in, who followed the Porcupine caribou (also known as Grant's caribou) for millennia, have depended on caribou for food, clothing, and shelter.
Caribou populations in Canada are also divided into subsets or designatable units (DU) for purposes of conservation and monitoring. The eleven DUs are Barren-Ground, Eastern Migratory, Northern Mountain, Boreal, Newfoundland, Dolphin and Union, Peary, Torngat Mountains, Southern Mountain, Central Mountain Current, Atlantic-Gaspésie.
The responsibility for the management and monitoring of herds is often shared between Inuit, Métis, and First Nations communities, local hunter and trapper associations, territorial and provincial governments, and the federal government.
Based on the most recent 10-year long assessment of caribou populations in Canada, every designated unit of caribou across the country, is in "some kind of danger." More than half of the DUs are endangered. In 2018, vast herds that used to be numbered in the millions, and were not in danger 15 years ago, are now threatened and scientists have recommended that the eastern migratory caribou be listed as endangered, "the highest level of threat".
- Caribou management and conservation
- Designated units for conservation and monitoring
- Common indigenous names for caribou
There are four subspecies of Rangifer tarandus represented in Canada,'—Woodland (R. t. caribou), Grant's (R. t. granti), and Barren ground (R. t. groenlandicus), Peary (R. t. pearyi).
The four subspecies are all found in Inuit Nunangat.
For purposes of management and conservation, caribou populations are further divided into the boreal population in Yukon, Northwest Territories, British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador which includes the George River caribou and the Leaf River caribou, the Atlantic-Gaspésie caribou population in Quebec, the Dolphin-Union caribou in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, the barren-ground population in Yukon, Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba which includes the large migratory herds such as the Ahiak herd, the Baffin Island herds, the Bathurst herd, the Beverly herd (Beverly Lake in western Nunavut), the Bluenose East herd (southwest of Kugluktuk), the Bluenose West herd, the Porcupine herd, the Qamanirjuaq herd, Lorillard herd, Wager Bay herd, Pen Islands herd, Cape Churchill herd, Southampton Island Herd, and Tuktoyaktuk Peninsula Herd. Porcupine caribou herd, Bluenose west herd, and the Dolphin Union herd, the Central Mountain population in British Columbia and Alberta, the Southern Mountain population in British Columbia, the Eastern Migratory population of Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador, and the Torngat Mountains population of Nunavut, Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador, the Newfoundland population in Newfoundland and Labrador and the Northern Mountain population in the Yukon, Northwest Territories, and British Columbia, Eastern Migratory in Newfoundland, Northern Mountain in British Columbia, Dolphin and Union, and Peary caribou.
Boreal woodland (R. t. caribou)
The boreal forest of Canada is the vital habitat of the endangered subspecies, the boreal caribou. The survival of boreal caribou depends on maintaining "large unbroken swaths" of the forest to protect the animals from their predators. The boreal forest—which is not monolithic but a patchwork—sweeps through parts of all provinces and territories except Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. It covers approximately 25% of Canada's total landmass—270,000,000 ha (2,700,000 km2; 1,000,000 sq mi)—and consists of "swamps, bogs, meadows, forests of different types — including hardwoods and conifers — and the rivers and lakes that tie them all together". It represents 75 per cent of the nation's forests.
The boreal woodland caribou are the largest caribou in Canada. They have the darkest coloured fur and their boreal forest habitat stretches from Newfoundland to British Columbia in an irregular distribution. Most boreal woodland caribou are not migratory. Some populations, especially those that inhabit mountainous regions, like the Central Mountain population in British Columbia and Alberta, the Southern Mountain population in British Columbia, the Eastern Migratory population of Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador, and the Torngat Mountains population of Nunavut, Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador, the Northern Mountain caribou, move with the seasons to different elevations.
In southern Labrador and northeastern Quebec, the range of three herds of sedentary woodland caribou, the Lac Joseph herd (LJH) 59,000 km2 (23,000 sq mi), the Red Wine Mountains herd (RWMH) 46,000 km2 (18,000 sq mi), and the Mealy Mountains herd (MMH) 28,000 km2 (11,000 sq mi) is bounded on the north by the George River herd, which is a migratory forest-tundra caribou (migratory ecotype). In the winter the multiple herds intermingle when the George River herd "enters the outer portions of the sedentary caribou ranges. The Lac Joseph-Atikonak Lake area is as a major calving and summering area for the Lac Joseph Woodland Caribou herd.
Eastern migratory caribou herds include four subpopulations such as the George River herd. The George River caribou are woodland caribou and are one of four subpopulations of the Eastern Migratory herds of caribou in northern Canada. The herd’s range extends through Labrador and Northern Quebec (Labrador Woodland Caribou Recovery Team, 2004).
South Selkirk mountain caribou
The cross boundary South Selkirk mountain caribou, a woodland mountain caribou, an ecotype of the boreal woodland caribou, had roamed the southern end of the Selkirk Mountains crossing the border between British Columbia, Canada and northern Idaho, eastern Washington, in the United States. They were the last naturally occurring caribou herd in the contiguous United States.
In 2009 the herd of 50 animals was declining, by April 2018, only three remained, According to David Moskovitz, author of Caribou Rainforest: From Heartbreak to Hope in 2019, the "last member of the last herd to regularly cross into the lower 48 states from Canada", a female, was moved in January 2019, a captive rearing pen near Revelstoke. The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) announced in its scientific journal, Science, that British Columbia's provincial biologists had captured the female caribou in Canada in the hopes of "preserving highly endangered herds".
By 2019, the Southern Mountain Caribou South Selkirk herd was extirpated (locally extinct). Caribou herds can be found from the High Arctic region south to the boreal forest and Rocky Mountains and from the east to the west coasts.
In their August 2008 scientific review and, Environment Canada established that in order to monitor and manage the boreal caribou's recovery, they would use "local population range" as the "relevant spatial scale for the identification of critical habitat" because "habitat conditions within boreal caribou ranges affect their survival and reproduction." This includes the spatial configuration, quantity, quality of habitat that local population need to survive. In 2008, there were "57 recognized local populations or units of analysis for Boreal caribou in Canada." The 2008 report described three measurable criteria for monitoring caribou habitat population trend—Declining (D), Stable (S), Increasing (I) or Unknown (U), population size—Very Small, Small, or Above Critical, and range disturbance— Very Low, Low, Moderate, High or Very High.
By 2018, the boreal woodland caribou had 51 herds, and the Southern Mountain Caribou population had 15. By 2019, the Southern Mountain Caribou South Selkirk herd was extirpated (locally extinct).
In Québec's, the small herds of the Atlantic-Gaspésie woodland caribou in the Gaspésie's isolated "alpine habitats on mountain plateaus" are designated on SARA's Schedule 1 as endangered with fewer than 120 adults in 2014 with an anticipated date of extinction of 2056. They were once widespread with a habitat that spanned New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island. Their numbers decreased with development including forest management models that increased the populations of their predators like the Eastern Coyote and black bear.
In British Columbia "Herd plans are currently being developed for each of the 54 herds in B.C."
Barren-ground caribou (R. t. groenlandicus)
The most abundant caribou with are the migratory barren-ground caribou which consist of huge herds that migrate annually to and from their natal grounds taking routes that are usually predictable. Barren-ground caribou are "slightly larger and darker". In Canada major barren-ground herds include the Porcupine caribou herd, Cape Bathurst herd, Bluenose West herd, Bluenose east herd, Bathurst herd, Ahiak herd, and the Dolphin Union herd. Because they migrate to the tundra, both the Leaf River herd and George River herd are often included with the barren-ground caribou.
Bluenose East-Bathurst caribou
The Bluenose East-Bathurst caribou, (southwest of Kugluktuk), are cross-border caribou herds, with migrations that bring them into both Nunavut and the Northwest Territories. In 2016, the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board with the endorsement of the Government of Nunavut developed a "community-based caribou plan" for Kugluktuk that limited harvest to 340 caribou. In 2019, government representatives from Nunavut, the Northwest Territories, Kugluktuk MLA Mila Kamingoak, biologists from the Nunavut and N.W.T., representatives from N.W.T. First Nations groups, Nunavut hunters and trappers organizations including Kugluktuk Hunters and Trappers Organization (HTO) worked together to improve management of the Bluenose East-Bathurst caribou herds. In 2016, although both Nunavut and N.W.T. governments opposed mining exploration on Bluenose East caribou calving grounds, the project went ahead.
Gwich’in in the Northwest Territories have hunted Bluenose East and Bluenose West barren-ground caribou (R. t. granti) herds and the Porcupine caribou herds (R. t. groenlandicus) from time immemorial. The word for caribou in the Gwich’in language, which is part of an Athabaskan language, is tradivadzaih.
The Bathurst caribou herd has suffered a dramatic decline from a record number of about 470,000 in the mid-1980s to only 8,200 in 2018. By 2003 there were 186,000 and by 2009 there were 32,000. As a result, the Government of Northwest Territories (GNWT) imposed a hunting ban for resident and outfitter hunters in 2010. The people of Wekweètì were still allowed to hunt a total of 150 animals, until the winter of 2015 when GNWT imposed a total hunting ban for all hunters. As the population continued to decline, the Tłı̨chǫ Government responded by introducing its own ban on hunting the Bathurst herd in October 2015. Caribou hunting is an important channel for the practice of Tłı̨chǫ culture and way of life on the land. The ban on hunting has created much hardship for families who usually rely on caribou as the main food source. Now they need to rely on the monetary system and financial support to buy store bought food."
"Between 2015 and 2018, the number of breeding cows dropped by almost 40 per cent to about 3,000 animals." In a February 2018 Science Advances journal, concerns were raised about the decline of the Bathurst caribou herd caused by disturbance of "key parts" of their range as governments of the Yukon and Northwest Territories have been opening access "for mining exploration and development" since the early 1990s. The mineral exploration "led to the loss and degradation of key habitat for caribou" which has exacerbated the herd's decline. Researchers described the policies that explicitly support private mining interests at the "expense of Indigenous cultures and livelihoods", as a tragedy of "open access". It is "unfolding particularly in the Bathurst caribou range, where caribou numbers are at critically low levels and mining activity has boomed since the early 1990s."
In 2019, the governments of Canada and the Northwest Territories pledged $61 million towards the construction of a 640 kilometre-long road "connecting Yellowknife to the Arctic Coast to open up mining in the Arctic". The road which cuts through thawing permafrost and the calving grounds of the Bathurst caribou herd, will benefit the Chinese state-controlled mining company—MMG Limited.
According to the official Canadian government site, the Dolphin-Union caribou are unique and while they resemble the Peary Caribou, they seem to be genetically related to Barren-ground Caribou.
Porcupine Caribou Herd (PCH)
The Porcupine Caribou herd (PCH)—R. t. granti—in northwest Canada and northeast Alaska migrate 1,500 miles (2,400 km) annually from their winter range in the boreal forests of Alaska and Yukon northwest Canada over the mountains boreal forests to their calving grounds on the Porcupine River coastal plain on the Beaufort Sea. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) draft 2018 Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) said that in order to reduce the vulnerability of the Porcupine Caribou Herd (PCH) and Central Arctic Herds (CAH) adaptive mitigation had to be undertaken in "[a]ll lands in the Arctic Refuge Coastal Plain are recognized as habitat of the PCH and CAH and would be managed to ensure unhindered movement of caribou through the area."
Caribou calves are born in the first week of June and they are at their most vulnerable from their primary predators on the calving ground - golden eagles, grizzly bears and wolves - during the first three weeks when they are dependent on milk from their mothers. About one quarter of them die during this period.
In February 2019, veteran researchers Don Russell and Anne Gunn, submitted their commissioned report to the Governments of Canada, Yukon Territory and the Northwest Territories—signatories to the 1987 International Treaty for the Porcupine herd. They undertook a "science-based risk assessment for how vulnerable the Porcupine Caribou herd (PCH)" is to the proposed oil and gas development of 1002 lands (Coastal Region) in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge."
Porcupine caribou's (R. t. granti) 1,500 miles (2,400 km) annual land migration between their winter range in the boreal forests of Alaska and northwest Canada over the mountains to the coastal plain and their calving grounds on the Beaufort Sea coastal plain, is the longest of any land mammal on earth. In 2019, the herd size was 218,000 compared 100,000 in the early 1970s.
The Porcupine herd has "supported people for thousands of years as well as being a key driver in the mountain and coastal arctic food web". The herd's annual range is contained within the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, established in 1980 by the US Congress. The Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) included Section 1002 which "identified a need to assess the oil and gas potential as well as the wildlife values". The 1.57 million acres Coastal Plain had not been included in the ANWR's wilderness designation. In this report we refer to the area covered by Section 1002 of ANILCA as “1002” lands.
Peary caribou (R. t. pearyi)
The smallest North American caribou are the Peary caribou (R. t. pearyi) that live on the Canadian High Arctic archipelago islands. Their fur is the lightest colour. Habitat suitable for their survival is very limited. The estimated population of the Peary caribou was about 13,000 adults in 2016, according to the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada, or COSEWIC."
Southampton Island Caribou
Southampton Island caribou are Rangifer tarandus groenlandicus. Like Coats Island caribou, they have no predators on the island.
In January 2012, a Government of Nunavut's wildlife biologist, Mitch Campbell, said that the Southampton Island Caribou, on the island at the mouth of Hudson Bay, was threatened with disease and overhunting. Southampton Island caribou numbers "declined from about 30,000 caribou in 1997 to 7,800 caribou in 2011, representing a drop of almost 75%." In July 2012, the Government of Nunavut set an "annual harvest limit of 1,000 caribou" in response to an urgent request from the Coral Harbour Hunters and Trappers Organization (HTO). The hunt has become unsustainable as orders for caribou from the island was being flown as country food to places like Iqaluit. After being hunted to extinction in the 1950s, the herd was "re-established when 50 animals were transplanted there in 1968."
Also for purposes of management and monitoring, caribou are subdivided into discrete herds/populations and/or designated units.
In a 2011 article entitled, "Northern caribou population trends in Canada", researchers listed herds/populations including 35 northern caribou herds across the Canadian Arctic.
|number||herd/population||subspecies||ecotype||Inuit/First Nations||provinces/territory||size||managed by||Hunt suspended|
|1||Porcupine||R. t. granti||migratory||Gwich'in, (ISR: Aklavik, Inuvik, Paulatuk, Tuktoyaktuk)||Alaska, NWT, Nunavut||218,000 Stable or increasing population||International Porcupine Caribou Board (IPCB)|
|2||Tuktoyaktik Peninsula Herd||Peary (R. t. pearyi)||sedentary||Inuvialuit||ISR, Northwest Territories||3,000 (2006) 1,500 (2018)||Suspended 2006-|
|3||Cape Bathurst||barren-ground R. t. groenlandicus||migratory||Inuvialuit ISR Aklavik, Inuvik, Paulatuk, Tuktoyaktuk||NWT||"8,200 animals, down from 20,000 in 2015"||yes 2007-|
|4||Bluenose West*||barren-ground||migratory||Inuvialuit, Sahtú region, Gwich'in||NWT||21,000 (2018)||commercial|
|5||Bluenose East||barren-ground||migratory||Délı̨nę primary harvesting community in Sahtú region||NWT||19,300 (2018) down from 39,000 in 2015.|
|6||Dolphin-Union||R. t. groenlandicus/pearyi)||eco||Sachs Harbour (Banks Island), Victoria Island (Ulukhaktok), Inuvialuit, Kitikmeot||endemic to Victoria Island (ISR) Kitikmeot region northern mainland (NU)||locally managed|
|7||Bathurst||barren-ground||eco||ISR (NT) Aklavik, Inuvik, Tuktoyaktuk||Cape Bathurst, NWT||8,200 (2018)||A Bathurst Caribou Range Plan||yes since 2014|
|8||Ahiak||barren-ground||migratory||Kitikmeot (NU): Gjoa Haven, Umingmaktok, Cambridge Bay; Kivalliq (NU): Arviat, Whale Cove, Rankin Inlet, Baker Lake, Chesterfield Inlet, Repulse Bay, Coral Harbour||Nunavut|
|9||Beverly||barren-ground||migratory||Kivalliq (NU): Arviat, Whale Cove, Rankin Inlet, Baker Lake, Chesterfield Inlet, Repulse Bay, Coral Harbour||Nunavut|
|10||Lorillard||barren-ground||sedentary||Kivalliq (NU): Chesterfield Inlet, Baker Lake||Nunavut||Stable or increasing population|
|11||Qamanirjuaq||barren-ground||migratory||Kivalliq (NU): Chesterfield Inlet, Baker Lake, Arviat (NU) is only near the migration route the Qamanirjuaq herd and can only harvest in specific seasons.||Nunavut||Declining or Stable at Historic Lows|
|12||Wager Bay||barren-ground||sedentary||Kivalliq (NU): Repulse Bay, Baker Lake, Chesterfield Inlet||Nunavut||Stable or increasing population|
|13||Southampton Island*||barren-ground||sedentary||Kivalliq (NU): Coral Harbour, Repulse Bay, Chesterfield Inlet, Rankin Inlet Qikiqtaaluk (NU): Cape Dorset, Baffin Island||Nunavut||7,500 (2011) down from 30,000 in 1997||restricted total allowable harvest (TAH) with quotas|
|14||Coats Island||barren-ground||sedentary||Coats Island, Nunavut||900 - 6000 (1986)||ban|
|15||Mansel Island||barren-ground||sedentary||Mansel Island, Nunavut|
|16||Leaf River||Woodland||migratory||Nunavik communities||Nunatsiavut: Leaf River, Ungava Peninsula||Indefinite ban in Nunatsiavut since 2013|
|17||Torngat Mountains||Woodland||montane woodland caribou||Nunatsiavut (Labrador): Nain; Nunavik (Quebec): Kangiqsualujjuaq||Labrador, Quebec||1 herd stable or increasing population|
|18||George River*||Woodland||migratory||Nunavik; Nunatsiavut; (Labrador): Nain, Hopedale, Makkovik, Postville, Rigolet||Restricted access (harvest quota). Indefinite ban in Nunatsiavut since 2013|
|19||Lac Joseph subpopulation*||Woodland||sedentary woodland caribou||Ban in Labrador (provincial land) protects the Mealy Mountain, Red Wine and Lac Joseph subpopulations.|
|20||Dominion Lake*||Woodland||sedentary woodland caribou||Ban in Labrador (provincial land) protects the Red Wine-Dominion Lake subpopulation.|
|21||Red Wine*||Woodland||sedentary woodland caribou||Ban in Labrador (provincial land) protects the Red Wine-Dominion Lake subpopulation.|
|22||Joir River subpopulation||Woodland||sedentary woodland caribou|
|23||Mealy Mountain subpopulation||Woodland||sedentary woodland caribou||Ban in Labrador (provincial land) protects the Mealy Mountain subpopulations.|
|24||Ellesmere Island Group||Peary||Resolute Bay||Nunavut||581 animals||Resolute Bay Hunters and Trappers Association (HTA) organized "self-regulated harvesting restrictions" (1975-)|
|25||Axel Heiberg Island Group||Peary||island||Eastern Queen Elizabeth Islands (EQEI), Nunavut||23||managed by|
|26||Ringnes Island Group||Peary||eco||Amund Ringnes and Ellef Ringnes, Sverdrup Islands, Nunavut|
|27||Melville, Prince Patrick complex||Peary caribou||ecotype||NWT and Nunavut||5,500+ adult caribou up from ≤1,000 in 1997||managed by|
|28||Bathurst Island Group||Peary||ecotype|
|29||Devon Island Group||Peary||ecotype||Inuit/First Nations||Nunavut|
|30||Banks & Northwest Victoria*||Peary||suspended|
|31||Prince of Wales & Somerset||Peary||ecotype|
- Inuvialuit Settlement Region (ISR), Northwest Territories (NT)
Caribou management and conservation
Caribou are included on the Minister of the Environment's List of Wildlife Species at Risk which federally recognizes species with designations ranging from of special concern, threatened, endangered, extirpated, to extinct under Schedule I of the Species at Risk Act (SARA). The list is update annually based on assessments by Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) experts and scientists. Caribou populations that are on Schedule 1 and are listed as threatened include the Boreal population in Yukon, Northwest Territories, British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador. Caribou herds that are listed as endangered and are included on Schedule 1 include the Atlantic-Gaspésie caribou population in Quebec and the Dolphin and Union population in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut. The Barren-ground population in Yukon, Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba are listed as threatened but are not included on Schedule 1. Central Mountain population in British Columbia and Alberta, the Southern Mountain population in British Columbia, the Eastern Migratory population of Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador, and the Torngat Mountains population of Nunavut, Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador are listed as endangered but are not included on Schedule 1. The Newfoundland population in Newfoundland and Labrador and the Northern Mountain population in the Yukon, Northwest Territories, and British Columbia are listed as Special Concern and are not included on Schedule 1. The Caribou dawsoni subspecies Rangifer tarandus dawsoni of British Columbia are listed as extinct.
The April 2018 report by the Auditor General of Canada there are 51 herds of the boreal woodland caribou with 37 of them in decline.
What was once the largest caribou herd in the world with 800,000–900,000 animals, the George River caribou herd (GRCH) in the Ungava Peninsula of Quebec and Labrador in eastern Canada, had declined to 14, 2000 animals by 2014.
By 2011, the Leaf River Herd (LRH) (Rivière-aux-Feuilles) herd decreased to 430,000 caribou in 2011 and could be threatened with extinction by 2080.
In 2018, the Nunatsiavut government asked Newfoundland-Labrador not to classify the George River and Torngat Mountains caribou herds as endangered because Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) used outdated data on the size of the herds.
In a 2018 article, Canadian Geographic listed the declining populations across Canada. These included the Eastern Migratory caribou declining from 1,100,000 to 225,000 and listed as endangered, Newfoundland populations declining from 100,000 to 32,000 listed as special concern, boreal woodland caribou declining at 33,000 listed as threatened, barren ground caribou declining from 2,000,000 to 300,000 listed as threatened, Atlantic-Gaspesie caribou declined from 1,500 to 130 listed as endangered, Torngat Mountains caribou declining from 5,000 to 1,400 listed as endangered, Central mountain declining from 1,300 to 500 listed as endangered, Southern mountain declined from 2,500 to 1,400 listed as endangered, Northern Mountain caribou declining from 48,000 to 43, 000 listed as special concern, Dolphin and Union declining from 100,000 to 20, 000 listed as endangered, and Peary caribou declining from 50,000 to 13,700 listed as threatened.
Designated units for conservation and monitoring
For conservation reasons, caribou populations have been also divided into eleven subsets "designatable units" (DU), which include Barren-Ground, Eastern Migratory, Northern Mountain, Boreal, Newfoundland, Dolphin and Union, Peary, Torngat Mountains, Southern Mountain, Central Mountain Current, Atlantic-Gaspésie.
According to conservation biologist Justina Ray at Wildlife Conservation Society Canada (WCSC), who was a co-leader of a 10-year long study on how these "designatable units" (DU) of caribou should be listed" under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA), the "change in the caribou's fortunes" is "profoundly worrying" since the last assessment was made in 2004.
Based on data collected between 2014 and 2017, Barren-Ground DU had declined to about 800,000 animals from the highest estimate of 2,000, 000; the Eastern Migratory DU had declined to c. 225,000 from c. 1,100,000 at its highest; Northern Mountain DU, had declined to c.43,000 from c. 48,000, Boreal DU was currently at c. 33,000 animals; Newfoundland DU had declined to c.32,000 from c. 100,000, Dolphin and Union DU declined to c. 20,000 from c. 100,000; Peary DU declined to c. 13,700 from c. 50, 000; Torngat Mountains DU decreased to c. 1,400 from to c.5,000, Southern Mountain DU declined to c. 1,400 from c.2,500; Central Mountain DU declined to c. 500 from c. 1,300; Atlantic-Gaspésie DU declined to c. 130 from c. 1,500.
The 2018 assessment was undertaken by an independent body that advises the Government of Canada on the status of endangered wildlife. Ray said that the "conclusions startle even those of us who have been paying a lot of attention." Caribou researchers gathered in Ottawa in October 2018 at a government-sponsored meeting.
Most alarming to scientists is the threat to the "vast herds" of Arctic barren-ground caribou and the Hudson Bay "eastern migratory herds" that were not "considered in trouble 15 years ago". By 2018, the researchers recommended that the government list barren-ground caribou as threatened and the eastern migratory caribou as endangered, "the highest level of threat".
Woodland and barren-ground migratory caribou herds usually return to the calving grounds of the females in the herd and are often named after these areas. This is referred to female natal philopatry or natal homing. Examples include the George River caribou herd (GRCH), Leaf River caribou herd (LRCH), Porcupine caribou, also known as Grant's caribou (Rangifer tarandus granti).
Common indigenous names for caribou
Common indigenous names for caribou are Qalipu/Xalibu (Mi’kmaq); Minunasawa atikw (Innu); Ahtik/Atik (Cree); Tǫdzi (Tłįchǫ); T’onzi/Tohzi (North Slavey); Vadzaih (Gwichin); Ch’atthaii (Vuntut Gwichin).
Caribou herds and populations in Canada Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.