Barren-ground Caribou

Bathurst Herd


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

They are part of the barren-ground caribou, a key northern species. Caribou 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 470,000 in the mid-1980s to a low of about 8,200 today. Between 2015 and 2018, the number of breeding cows dropped by almost 40 per cent to about 3,000 animals.

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                20,000 animals

2018                8,200 animals


Bathurst Caribou Range Plan

A Bathurst Caribou Range Plan has been developed in collaboration with 21 organizations, including Indigenous governments, wildlife management boards and industry from the NWT, Nunavut and Saskatchewan. The draft plan will help guide decision-makers, companies and communities within our established co-management and regulatory systems to manage activities on the land in a way that supports the recovery of the Bathurst caribou.

Harvest restrictions

As of 2015, there is no harvest of Bathurst caribou allowed in the NWT. A Mobile Core Bathurst Caribou Conservation Area was put in place in 2015 to protect the herd.