Bluenose West

  • Herd size (2021) 18,440

This is one of three herds once simply known as the “Bluenose Herd”. In the mid 1990s, research showed that the Bluenose Herd was split into three herds all using different calving grounds, so the management units of Bluenose-East, Bluenose-West, and Cape Bathurst herds were created. There is no management board for this herd, but there is a management plan covering all three herds. The Bluenose-West herd was estimated at about 112,000 animals in 1992.  The most recent (2021) estimate is 18,440, the lowest number recorded. Resident, outfitted and commercial harvest of the Bluenose-West herd has been suspended since 2006. Aboriginal harvest of the herd is limited with a current quota of 345 animals for the Inuvialuit, 350 animals for the Sahtú and 22 animals for the Gwich’in. An 80 per cent bull harvest is recommended.

The herd calves on and near the Arctic coast just to the west of the NWT/Nunavut border and ranges to the south and west in the NWT. Communities within its range are Paulatuk and Colville Lake. It is typically harvested by 13 communities in the NWT; Aklavik, Fort McPherson, Tsiigehtchic, Inuvik, Tuktoyaktuk, Paulatuk, Colville Lake, Fort Good Hope, Norman Wells, Tulít’a, Délı̨nę, Ulukhaktok, and Sachs Harbour.

Related news

GNWT issues appeal over caribou harvesting near Inuvik-Tuk Highway

A brief story about reported illegal harvesting of caribou near the highway linking Inuvik and Tuktoyaktuk in the Northwest Territories.
8 November 2023 | Cabin Radio

QIA says Nunavut land-use plan doesn’t go far enough to protect caribou

The Qikiqtani Inuit Association (the organization that holds land rights for Inuit in the Baffin region of Nunavut) is urging more prtoections for caribou in the Nunavut Land Use Plan. The land use plan is in its final hearing stage. The plan has been under development for several years and will influence the future of development in the territory. 
18 November 2022 | Nunatsiaq news

Necessity of gov't quota on caribou harvesting debated at final day of Colville Lake hearing

A story outlining arguments on the final day of a court case brought to determine who sets caribou conservation rules for harvesting caribou from the Bluenose West herd in the Northwest Territories. The Small Dene community of Colville Lake is arguing rules developed by the community should take precedence, while the government insists that its approach that includes harvest limits should be applied.
14 November 2022 | CBC north

Colville Lake caribou court challenge begins in N.W.T.

A First Nation in the Sahtu region of the NWT is taking the NWT government to court over the question of rights to apply its own caribou conservation plan rather than the plan applied by the territorial government. The Behdzi Ahda First Nation in Colville Lake argues that a quota ssytem for the Bluenose West caribou herd should be set aside on the First Nation territory, and its own community conservation plan should take precedence. The Sahtu Renewable Resources Board is supporting the community's position, while the Inuvialuit Game Council supports the territorial government position.
10 November 2022 | cbc north

N.W.T. judge tasked with clearing 'log jam' built by differing caribou worldviews

A news story about a court challenge lodged by Sahtu communities after the Northwest Territories government rejected a community conservation plan for the Bluenose West herd.The Colville Lake Renewable Resources Council (CLRRC), Behdzi Ahda First Nation and Ayoni Keh Land Corporation and the Sahtu Renewable Resources Board are challenging the decision. The herd is officially estimated at about fewer than 19,000 animals, down from a high of 110,000.
3 March 2022 | cbc north

Barren-Ground Caribou Population Surveys Indicate Positive Signs for Some Herds, and Ongoing Concerns for the Bathurst Herd

Caribou herd counts were released for five herds surveyed in 2021. All five herds were last surveyed in 2018. Three herds (Tukotyaktuk Peninsula, Cape Bathurst, Bluenose East) show slight increases, the other two (Bathust and Bluenose West) show further declines. 
21 December 2021 | Government of the NWT

Community plans to lead caribou conservation in Sahtú region

This news story is about a decision by the Sahtu Renewable Resources Board (Northwest Territories) to approve a community-led approach to managing caribou. The communities of Colville Lake and Délı̨nę have already developed plans. Once the community plans are fully approved, a "total allowable harvest" quota system administered by the Renewable Resources Board will be lifted, although it can be reimposed if the Board thinks it necessary.
18 November 2020 | CKLB Radio

Strategy to help NWT’s beleaguered caribou is released

A news story about a new recovery strategy for barren-ground caribou herds in the NWT.  The strategy was developed by group of governments and regulatory boards, collectively known as the Conference of Management Authorities. The recovery strategy will guide how all NWT herds of barren-ground caribou are managed, with the exception of the Porcupine herd.
10 July 2020 | cabin radio

Related resources

Jay Macdonald: Our Commitment to Caribou Stewardship

A Minister's statement by NWT government Minister of Environment nd Climate Change focusing on barren ground caribou. The statement includes information about a public education campaign on respectful hunting, and plans to survey three herds found in the territoriy in summer of 2024.

Continental synchrony and local responses: Climatic effects on spatiotemporal patterns of calving in a social ungulate

This paper looked at data from seven barren ground caribou herds, totalling more than 1200 animals over 15 years. The authors were trying to estimate the effects of changing climate on calving. The paper notes that, "...the ability to access preferred calving areas and the ability to synchronize births in time are critical for maintaining high barren-ground caribou abundances..." in concludes, "Overall, we detected considerable variability across years and across herds, but no significant trend for earlier calving by caribou, even as broad indicators of spring and snow phenology trend earlier." 

advisory committee for cooperation on wildlife management

This is the site for the Advisory Committee for Cooperation on Wildlife Management. It was established to exchange information, help develop cooperation and consensus, and make recommendations regarding wildlife and wildlife habitat issues that cross land claim and treaty boundaries in the Northwest Territories. The committee includes the Wildlife Management Advisory Council (NWT), Gwich’in Renewable Resources Board, Ɂehdzo Got’ı̨nę Gots’ę́ Nákedı (Sahtú Renewable Resources Board), Wek’èezhìi Renewable Resources Board, Kitikmeot Regional Wildlife Board, and Tuktut Nogait National Park Management Board. The ACCWM covers three caribou herds, the Bluenose east and west herds, and Cape Bathurst.


This 70-page recovery strategy for barren-gound caribou in the Northwest Territories lays out plans to help the eight herds covered by the strategy. The strategy was required by the NWT Species at Risk Act after the barren-ground caribou were listed as "threatened" in 2018. The governments and co-management boards that developed the strategy have until April 9, 2021 to agree on the implementation of the recovery strategy. 
Conference of Management Authorities (2020)

Interview on Advisory Committee for Cooperation on Wildlife Management

Ever wonder how different jurisdictions cooperate on caribou management? Here's one example. An interview with Jody Pellissey, Executive Director of the Wekʼèezhìi Renewable Resources Board about the Advisory Committee for Cooperation on Wildlife Management (ACCWM). It was created to share information and coordinate wildlife management between wildlife management boards in the NWT and Nunavut, with a particular focus on the management of transboundary caribou herds.

Renal trace elements in barren-ground caribou subpopulations: Temporal trends and differing effects of sex, age and season

An academic paper that looks at the level of some metals in kidneys of some northern caribou. It found that copper levels are decreasing in the caribou kidneys, possibly due to changes in what caribou are eating. The paper concludes, "Declining Cu concentrations in caribou are of concern as low levels could potentially negatively affect reproduction and therefore caribou at a population level."
Science of the Total Environment (2020)

Report to the Hunters of the Bluenose West Caribou – Feb 2019

The Northern Contaminants Program monitors contaminants in Arctic Caribou in Canada.

Usage: Non-commercial with attribution
Format: pdf

Bluenose WestPeopleContaminants

Tactical departures and strategic arrivals: Divergent effects of climate and weather on caribou spring migrations

A 2019 academic paper that looks at factors affecting caribou migration timing and speed. The paper concludes that  later arrival at calving grounds might indicate that females are in worse condition, and that calving and calf survival rates might be lower.

Action Plan for the Bluenose-West Caribou Herd

A 62-page action plan for the Bluenose-west herd prepared by the wildlife management boards with stewardship responsibilities for barren-ground caribou and their habitat in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut. This is a follow-up to the 2014 management plan, "Taking Care of Caribou".
Wekʼèezhìi Renewable Resources Board (WRRB) (2017)

Technical Report on Cape Bathurst, Bluenose-West and Bluenose-East Caribou Herds

A 90-page 2016 report presenting scientific knowledge and status of the Cape Bathurst, BluenoseWest and Bluenose-East caribou herds and gaps in knowledge.  One of two companion documents to "Taking Care of Caribou: The Cape Bathurst, Bluenose-West and Bluenose-East Caribou Herds Management Plan"
Government of the Northwest Territories (2016)

Gwich'in Knowledge of Bluenose West Caribou

A 72-pge 2015 report by the Gwich'in Social and Cultural Institute on Gwich’in Traditional Knowledge of the Bluenose-West Caribou herd.
Gwich'in Renewable Resources Board (GRRB) (2015)

Usage: Non-commercial with attribution
Format: pdf

Bluenose WestPeople

We have been Living with the Caribou all our Lives: a report on information recorded during community meetings

A 196-page report from 2014 from The Advisory Committee for Cooperation on Wildlife Management (a collection of wildlife management/renewable resources boards from the NWT and Nunavut). This report details community input to a management plan for the Cape Bathurst, Bluenose-West, and Bluenose-East herds
Advisory Committee for Cooperation on Wildlife Management (2014)

Engaging Bluenose Caribou Communities

This lengthy 2014 report contain notes from all the community meetings that fed into the management plan for three herds (Bluenose-East and West and Cape Bathurst). It is the result of consultation sessions in 17 communities in the NWT and Nunavut. It contains much Indigneous knowledge about the caribou, but the report cautions that it “...should not be seen as a complete record of the traditional and community knowledge that exists about these caribou.”
Wekʼèezhìi Renewable Resources Board (WRRB) (2014)

The Cape Bathurst, Bluenose-West, and Bluenose-East Barren-ground Caribou Herds Management Plan

There is no management board for this herd, but there is a management plan. The plan was prepared under the authority of the Advisory Committee for Cooperation on Wildlife Management. This group brings together representatives of several renewable resources boards and committees in the NWT and Nunavut to address cross-boundary wildlife issues
Government of the Northwest Territories (2014)

Usage: Non-commercial with attribution
Format: pdf

BathurstBluenose WestBluenose EastBarren-ground

Taking Care of Caribou: The Cape Bathurst, Bluenose-West, and Bluenose-East Barren-ground Caribou Herds Management Plan

This 2014 management plan for three herds (Bluenose-East and West and Cape Bathurst) was created by the Advisory Committee for Cooperation on Wildlife Management (NWT). It says “While the immediate need for the plan was in response to reported declines in the herds, the intent is for the plan to address caribou management and stewardship over the long term. This plan was developed in consultation with most of the communities that harvest from the three herds.”
Government of the Northwest Territories (2014)

FACT SHEET: Satellite collaring barren ground caribou

A 2-page fact sheet from the Government of the Northwest Territories explaining the use of radio collars on caribou.
Government of the Northwest Territories

Usage: Non-commercial with attribution
Format: pdf

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