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Public Input on Bathurst Caribou plan sought by GNWT

A bull caribou grazes in the Alaskan Arctic Refuge. The GNWT is seeking public input into its soon-to-be-released Bathurst Caribou Management Plan. Photo credit Malkolm Boothroyd/

Officials are seeking public input on the Bathurst Caribou Management Plan by the GNWT. 

A summary of the upcoming plan posted to the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (ENR's) website is requesting feedback. The plan is due for release in the fall and is five years in the making. 

“Caribou have sustained generations in our territory – and our government has a responsibility to do everything we can to help ensure they’ll sustain many more,” said ENR Minister Shane Thompson. “With the Bathurst herd in real trouble, we’re pleased to be moving forward with urgency to chart a strong path to recovery and resilience. 

“With collaboration across the North, and valued perspectives from the public, I am confident we will get this plan right.” 

Public Input on Bathurst
Population survey estimates over the last 30 years show the Bathurst caribou herd in dramatic decline. Harvesting of the caribou has been illegal since 2015. Photo courtesy GNWT. 

Bathurst caribou numbers are in free-fall and have been since the 1980s. Scientists counted around 470,000 caribou in 1986. Today, only an estimated 8,200 caribou remain. That’s a 98 per cent decline and declines have become more severe in time. In 1996 estimates put the population at 349,000 caribou, dropping to 186,000 by 2003 and then to 32,000 by 2009. 

Hunt wolves, not caribou

Aside from ongoing monitoring, the plan includes recommendations to encourage hunting of predators like wolves when caribou numbers are low. Factoring the herd’s range into land management decisions like new roads is also a key factor in preservation. The plan will also set limits on the harvest of caribou during low-years. Public education campaigns on respectful hunting and land use are also key factors. Hunting of Bathurst caribou has been illegal since 2015 and a ‘no hunting zone’ has been in effect since 2012. 

A ‘mobile core’ conservation area follows the herd as it migrates through its range. In its prime, the Bathurst caribou ranged from northern Saskatchewan to the Arctic coast. But as the population plummets the herd’s range has decreased accordingly. 

The Bathurst Caribou Advisory Committee oversees the management plan's implementation. It plans on meeting annually to discuss how the management plan is going and make changes as needed. The committee is also responsible for publishing annual reports on progress. 

Officials are accepting Public Input on the Bathurst caribou until May 31. To have a say, email the committee at or by letter to the Government of the Northwest Territories c/o Karin Clark, Wildlife Biologist, Wildlife Division, Environment and Natural Resources P.O. Box 1320, Yellowknife, NT XLA 2L9. Public meetings are also in the works, however no schedule is available yet. 

About the Author: Eric Bowling

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