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 20,000 today.The number of breeding cows has dropped by 50 per cent 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                20,000 animals


Bathurst Caribou Range Plan

A framework for the monitoring, assessment and management of cumulative effects on the herd has been established. A range plan is a key component of this framework that will help guide decision-makers, companies and communities to manage activities on the land in a way that supports the recovery of the Bathurst caribou.

The GNWT is currently compiling comments received during public engagement on the Draft Bathurst Caribou Range Plan held between January and April 2018. A What we Heard document is being prepared that summarizes comments and indicates how they will be addressed in the Final Range Plan.

Cabinet review and approval of the Final Plan and What we Heard document should be complete by the end of 2018,  after which the documents will be publicly available.

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.

In December 2014, all harvest of the Bathurst herd was suspended. A mobile Bathurst Mobile Conservation Core Area was put in place to conserve the Bathurst herd. No harvest of any barren-ground caribou is allowed within the core area. These harvest restrictions remain in place.

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.