The NWT’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources has introduced a new plan to address the critically-low population of the Bathurst caribou herd.

The Bathurst Caribou Management Plan, released Dec. 21, outlines several measures to protect the vulnerable herd.

These include promoting sustainable and culturally sensitive harvesting; controlling predation and its impact on the herd; protecting the caribou in their natural range by practicing responsible land use; monitoring the health of the herd using various types of knowledge, including traditional knowledge; and promoting awareness of the importance of conserving the herd.

The action plan comes on the heels of the release of the department’s most recent caribou population count: Three of the territory’s five herds were found to have declined in population between 2018 and 2021, although two of those declines, including the one seen in the Bathurst Herd, were considered statistically insignificant.

Between 2018 and 2021, the population of the Bathurst herd declined from 8,200 members to 6,420. A report on the survey by the department of ENR concluded that there were “still concerns” about the health of the Bathurst herd, which has been in decline for decades and is considered “critically low.” The current population is also a small fraction of the roughly 470,000-strong herd that existed in the mid-1980s.

The plan was devised by representatives of 14 government and non-government organizations, including the GNWT, local Indigenous government, and various hunting and trapping organizations. This Bathurst Caribou Advisory Committee will monitor the progress of the action plan every year.

“Our government is working with co-management partners to monitor and manage the Bathurst herd, and yet this herd is still in serious trouble,” Minister of ENR Shane Thompson wrote in a statement. “This management plan is critical to supporting its recovery over the long-term.”

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