Boreal Caribou

Boreal caribou range planning

Range plans are tools for decision-makers, developers and communities to help manage activities on the land in a way that supports caribou conservation. Together with co-management partners, ENR has developed a Framework for Boreal Caribou Range Planning that will guide the development of five regional boreal caribou range plans between 2019 and 2023.

These regional plans would maintain at least 65 per cent undisturbed habitat within the Northwest Territories (NWT) range of boreal caribou over the long term, as required by the federal Boreal Caribou Recovery Strategy. The goal of these plans is to ensure a healthy and sustainable boreal caribou population across their NWT range that offers harvesting opportunities for present and future generations.

What are boreal caribou?

Boreal caribou are a distinct population of woodland caribou. They are the largest subspecies of caribou in the NWT.

Males weigh an average of 150 kg and can reach 1.2 m high at the shoulder. Their brown summer coat turns greyish in winter. In all seasons their neck, mane, underbelly, rump and a patch above each hoof are creamy white. Antlers of woodland caribou are thicker and broader compared to those of barren-ground caribou.

Boreal caribou are similar to northern mountain caribou, the other population of woodland caribou found in the NWT, but have different habitat preferences and behaviour.


Boreal caribou live in the forests east of the Mackenzie Mountains. Their range covers more than 44 million hectares in the NWT and part of northeastern Yukon. Boreal caribou do not migrate; they tend to live in small groups and prefer to stay within the forest all year. Females space out throughout the forests for calving to reduce the risk of predation.

Approximately 69 per cent of boreal caribou range in the NWT is considered undisturbed, with most of the habitat disturbance caused by forest fires.

Boreal caribou range in the NWT


Boreal caribou populations have declined in most of their range across Canada. In the NWT, the population of boreal caribou is estimated to be between 6,000 and 7,000 animals.

Population trends vary across the NWT. Boreal caribou numbers appear to be stable or increasing in some parts of the territory. However, there is evidence of population decline in the southern part of the NWT where the majority of the territory’s boreal caribou occur.

Species at Risk status

Boreal caribou were listed as Threatened on the NWT List of Species at Risk in February 2014. They were listed as Threatened under the federal Species at Risk Act in 2003.


A Framework for Boreal Caribou Range Planning outlines the NWT's approach to developing five regional boreal caribou range plans. The Framework calls for a balanced approach to maintaining a healthy and self-sustaining boreal caribou population while ensuring sustainable economic growth opportunities for residents of the NWT.

Recovery Strategy

Boreal Caribou Recovery Strategy for the NWT was released by the Conference of Management Authorities in March 2017, followed by an Implementation Agreement in November.

The recovery strategy was developed collaboratively and accepted by the boreal caribou co-management authorities with input from Indigenous organizations and the public. It sets out goals, objectives and recommended approaches to ensure a healthy and sustainable boreal caribou population across their NWT range that offers harvesting opportunities for present and future generations.

national recovery strategy was released in 2012. The strategy identifies critical habitat for boreal caribou as a minimum of 65 percent of undisturbed habitat throughout their range.


Boreal caribou study reports

There are a number of ecological studies being conducted on boreal caribou in other regions of the NWT. The purpose of the studies is to increase knowledge of boreal caribou, to help inform decision-making.

Dehcho boreal caribou study reports

South Slave Boreal Caribou Program progress report