ENR issues warning over illegal caribou harvesting

A territorial government-issued photograph of barren-ground caribou
A territorial government-issued photograph of barren-ground caribou.

Wildlife officers are actively targeting illegal harvesting of caribou, the NWT’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources (ENR) said on Sunday.

The department said on Facebook harvesters must adhere to the rules governing a no-hunting area known as the mobile core Bathurst caribou management zone.

The zone moves over time – maps are regularly shared online. Barren-ground caribou inside the zone can’t be hunted.

In general, NWT caribou herd numbers peaked in the mid-1980s to mid-1990s. They have dramatically declined since. 



In November 2018, there were around 8,200 caribou left in the Bathurst herd. At its peak in 1986, the herd had around 470,000 members.

Various tactics to protect caribou have been adopted, ranging from shooting the animals’ predators by helicopter to community-based monitoring.

Some critics maintain that human actions, such as illegal harvesting and the operations of roads through calving grounds to mine sites, are a far more consequential concern.

Others believe the health of each herd is broadly cyclical and will ultimately recover, regardless of the apparent inadequacy of interventions to date.



“With recent reports of illegal harvesting in and around [the zone], we urge harvesters to adhere to the mobile zone and the Wildlife Act,” ENR said in a statement.

“ENR has more officers on the ground actively enforcing harvesting rules by truck and snow machine, and will be doing active aerial enforcement patrols.

“The Bathurst herd is in serious decline, and needs our help. Harvest safely, respectfully and legally to support herd recovery.”