Barren-ground Caribou

Bathurst Herd


The Bathurst caribou is named for Bathurst Inlet, the general area of the herd’s traditional calving grounds.

The Bathurst Herd are barren-ground caribou, a key northern species. They have shaped the cultural identity of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples over millennia through mutual relationships built on respect.

Bathurst Caribou
Bathurst Caribou


The Bathurst caribou range (or use of habitat) extends from southern and central Northwest Territories (NWT) to the Bathurst Inlet in Nunavut. In some years, they have wintered as far south as northern Saskatchewan.


The Bathurst caribou herd has suffered a dramatic decline in numbers from a high of roughly 450,000 in the mid-1980s to a low of about 20,000 today.The number of breeding cows has dropped by 50 percent to 8,000 since 2012.

Population surveys since 2003 indicate a rapid decline in the population size as shown below:

2003               186,000 animals

2006               128,000 animals

2009                32,000 animals

2012                35,000 animals

2015                approximately 16,000-22,000 animals


A framework for the monitoring, assessment and management of cumulative effects on the herd has been established. A range plan or habitat management plan is a key component of this framework and is currently under development. Co-management partners and the public are invited to review documents and provide input into the development of the range plan

Steps to develop a long term management process for the Bathurst caribou herd are also underway. 

Harvesting restrictions

All resident, commercial and outfitted harvesting of the Bathurst herd was suspended in 2010 and limited bull only Aboriginal harvest of 300 caribou was put in place.

All harvest of the Bathurst herd was suspended in December 2014 and a mobile Bathurst Mobile Conservation Core Area was put place. These harvest restrictions remain in place.

Mobile Core Bathurst Caribou Conservation Area

The Mobile Core Bathurst Caribou Conservation Area was established in 2014 to conserve the Bathurst herd. No harvest of any barren-ground caribou is allowed within it.

There are no restrictions on General Hunting Licence harvest in the NWT in terms of number or sex of caribou taken outside of this area.