15. Wildlife

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The Northwest Territories is one of the few remaining regions in the world with herds of wild migratory caribou, muskoxen, healthy populations of top predators, and rich northern biodiversity. Wildlife is one of the main links between people and the environment.

Barren-ground caribou in March - Taiga Shield
Barren-ground caribou in March - Taiga Shield

The indicators presented in this chapter reveal changes occuring in NWT wildlife.  Some northern wildlife species experience large natural fluctuations in population numbers over time. These population cycles are the 'heartbeat' of NWT ecosystems.  A change or a decline in these cycles could indicate a chang ein the environment that should be examined. Two indicators that track population cycles are provided in this chapter.

Other indicators on selected species provide information on status and trends in different ecozones of the NWT. Caribou are a major focus species, and one indicator pf the indicators provides information on barren-ground caribou populations.  Indicators on birds and fish provide information on changes and declines for these groups of species of particular importance to NWT people. Information on winter tick, a parasite that affects moose populations, is provided as an indicator of wildlife health. Other factors influencing wildlife health are presented in the Contaminants section.

Trends in the number of new species in the NWT, as well as species that are expanding their ranges to new areas within  the NWT are tracked as such changes are predicted to occur with a warming climate.