Climate change

Changes in climate are often cited as major threats to the future of Arctic caribou. Some change has already been observed, such as an increase in wildfires, earlier snowmelt and later onset of winter, changes in the formation of ice, and warmer temperatures. Future changes are not projected to be the same across the range of Arctic caribou in Canada, but all parts of the range are expected to see at least some further changes in the coming decades. The ways in which climate change is expected to affect caribou vary, and are listed below.

Changes to food

Some studies suggest that earlier springs might be good for caribou as it will give them access to higher quality food earlier, making them more healthy at a time when they are giving birth and feeding their calves. However, this advantage might ultimately be balanced by changes in the kinds of food available to them. As the tundra warms, there is evidence that the kinds of plants that grow there are changing. More woody plants are beginning to replace grasses and flowering plants, and the woody plants are less nutritious for caribou.

While food may be more available to caribou in the summer, it may become less available in the winter. Ice is a particular problem when it forms on, in, or beneath the snow. There is predicted to be an increase in freeze-thaw events where caribou live. This is when temperatures hover around the freezing point, and some snow melts, then it freezes again. This creates layers of ice in the snow pack, layers that caribou must dig through to get at the food beneath. These sort of events can lead to worse body condition for caribou, leading in turn to fewer calves being born. In extreme cases, icing has been blamed for starving caribou to death.

Predicted increases in forest fires will likely also become important for the migratory caribou that move to the treeline for the winter. It has been shown that caribou mostly tend to avoid burnt-out areas. This is likely due in large part to the damage that forest fires do to lichens, a primary winter food source for the caribou. Lichens can take decades to recover to the point that there are enough mature clumps to attract caribou.

Parasites and diseases

Warmer weather is anticipated to lead to caribou being more bothered by two types of flies that lay their eggs in the caribou, warble flies and nose botflies. When the caribou are bothered by these sorts of flies, they will often try to escape by running around, or by finding a more windy spot or a patch of snow where the conditions reduce the numbers of flies. Longer summers are expected to lead to more opportunities for the flies to lay their eggs in the caribou. The caribou can be affected by either losing opportunities to feed and wasting energy while they try to escape the flies, or by the effects of having the eggs of the flies hatch, and the parasitic larvae of the flies weakening the caribou.

Apart from existing parasites, there are concerns that warmer weather will lead to new parasites and diseases in the caribou range, possibly brought in by other animals such as moose and white tailed deer moving further north. A parasite called Besnoitia tarandi started to be noticed in eastern migratory caribou around 2005 and is cited in the COSEWIC report on the caribou as a possible limitation to productivity. In 2010, caribou lungworm, a parasite previously limited to the mainland was reported in caribou on Victoria Island.  Climate change has been suggested as the likely cause of this northward movement of the lungworm. Chronic wasting disease, a disease that is hitting populations of wild deer in southern canada could potentially move north and infect caribou.

Changes to water and ice

The condition of ice is important to caribou as they use it for crossings during their migrations. caribou also cross open water when they must. The barren-ground caribou cross lakes and rivers. If the ice is not thick enough, or if water flows are too fast, caribou can drown.  In one notable event in 1984, an estimated 10,000 caribou from the George River herd died after being swept over a waterfall in Nunavik (Northern Quebec). 

The Dolphin and Union herd and Peary caribou cross sea ice. The Dolphin and Union herd is particularly vulnerable to changes in sea ice as it migrates across the ice twice a year, from Victoria Island to the mainland and back again. There have been several reports of caribou from this herd drowning, or freezing to death after falling through the ice or crossing open water.

Related news

State kills over 80 bears in Southwest Alaska in second-year effort to boost caribou

A news story from Alaska, where state widllife officials have undertyaken an agggressive program of predator control for a second year, in an attempt to boost caribou numbers. The cull took place on the range of the Mulchatna herd in southwest Alaska. Of the animals killed, the most (81) were brown bears along with 15 wolves. State officials say the ratio of calves that survived the summar doubled last year, the first year of the predator control program, but two former state biologists quoted dispute the impact of predators on the herd.  
24 June 2024 | Anchorage Daily News

Nearly $4.8 million to track migratory caribou in the context of climate change

A news release announcing multi-million dollar funding that will sponsor a project to research migratory caribou on the Ungava peninsula in Nunavik (Quebec). The "Caribou Ungava" project has been active since 2009; the new funding will take it to 2029. The project is to focus on five main areas of research: 1) the dynamics and connectivity of migratory caribou populations with forest and mountain caribou populations; 2) mitigation of the impacts of territorial development; 3) determinants of habitat use and change; 4) health indicators of caribou and their boreal and northern competitors; 5) the ecology of black bear and musk ox interacting with migratory and expanding caribou on the Ungava Peninsula.
10 May 2024 | laval university

As grizzlies and hybrid bears push north, N.W.T. harvesters look to protect caribou

This story quotes a local resident and a researcher who agree that grizzly bears and grrizzly/polar bear hybrids are increasingly found on Victoria Island and Banks Island, off the Arctic coast of the Northwest Territories. Hunters are concerned that the increased incidence of the bears is having an impact on local caribou populations. They are considering organizing a community hunt to reduce the grizzly numbers.
22 April 2024 | cbc north

Colville Lake declines to share caribou information with GNWT

Hearings wre held in the Sahtu region of the Nothwest Territories to discuss the impacts of wildfire on caribou. One First Nation declined to share information at the session, noting that elders have warned against publicly discussing things beyond their control such as caribou and weather. A manager of environmental assessment and habitat with the territorial government told the meeting, "Loss of habitat from wildfires has been identified as a main threat to barren-ground caribou."
26 February 2024 | Cabin Radio

Arctic caribou on thin ice: climate change threats revealed

This brief article provide a summary of research into the impacts of climate change on Peary caribou. There is also a mention of caribou on Baffin Island. The research found that Peary caribou, that migrate aross sea ice, face challenges as the sea ice progressively thins and diminishes. 
23 January 2024 | Sigma bulletin

Caribou Management in Alaska

An Alaska public radio call-in program on the subject of caribou management, including climate change impacts and harvest levels. The program runs just under an hour. Not Canadian, but discussing similar issues.
10 January 2024 | Alaska Public Media

Taking a Bite Out of Caribou Herds

An article written by a researcher looking into the factors affecting the decline of barren ground caribou, particularly the Bathurst herd. The researcher is a member of the "Kutz lab" team that has been working alongside Indigenous communities in the Northwest Territories to investigate causes of the decline, and monitor caribou health. "In the coming year, we are initiating a new project for Central Canadian barren-ground caribou to see whether Indigenous knowledge of caribou health, coupled with harvester-based sampling and local field observations, can anticipate population shifts for proactive management."
14 December 2023 | fair chase magazine

Where Are All the Caribou?

A magazine length story talking about the general decline of barren-ground caribou and the impacts of that deline on local people. The story includes a focus on the Bathurst Caribou herd, the Western Arctic herd in Alaska, and a mention of the Porcupine herd. The story mentions various possible factors in the decline with making any conclusions.
20 November 2023 | National geographic

Researcher illustrates animal behaviour in wildfire-burned forest

A story about a researcher investigating wildlife use of burned forest in the Northest Territories. Although the research focuses on caribou, the story mentions some evidence that moose are favouring recently burned forest areas. 
6 November 2023 | cbc north

Ice that survived Arctic summer hits low, with implications for traditional harvesting and shipping

A story that mentions the likely effects of disappearing sea ice on caribou that migrate to and from Canadian Arctic islands. It specificaly mentions the Dolphin and Union herd, a unique herd that migrates across th sea ice between Victoria Island and the mainland twice a year. The Northwest Territories Species at Risk Committee assessed the herd as 'endangered' in 2023.
24 October 2023 | cbc north

OPINION: Alaska’s game management goals for Mulchatna caribou are unrealistic

This is another perpsepctive on the decision by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game to undertake large-scale predator control on the range of a migratory caibou herd. The department shot 94 brown bears, along with a few black bears and wolves this spring. While this is not a herd that ranges into Canada, it is an interesting discussion of various aspects of caribou management, including the efficacy of predator control, and the setting of appropriate targets for herd size. 
16 August 2023 | Anchorage Daily News

Herbivore Diversity Helps Maintain Arctic Tundra Diversity

A report on research in Greenland that shows grazing animals such as caribou are likely to contribute to less biodiversity loss in Arctic tundra as the region warms. The study leaders fenced off some area so they could be grazed by caribou, muskox, and Arctic hares and found, "Biodiversity declined more gradually in the grazed plots compared with the ungrazed plots."  
14 August 2023 | Eos

State wildlife officials trying to revive Southwest Alaska caribou killed almost 100 brown bears in less than a month

A story about predator control in Alaska, where many bears were killed in an effort to aid the declining Mulchatna caribou herd. The top two causes for the decline are reported to be climate change and brucellosis, but state officials say that predator control is the only practical lever they have to try to revive the herd.
12 June 2023 | Anchorage Daily News

Mining, climate change decimates the Bathurst caribou herd in N.W.T.

Both a web story and video (3'37"), with different content. The web story concentrates more on the decline of the Bathurst Caribou herd in NWT/Nunavut, and the efforts made by local Tłı̨chǫ people to monitor the caribou and the hunting of the caribou. The video covers some of the same ground but focuses more on the efforts to amass Tłı̨chǫ knowledge around the caribou and caribou hunting. 
13 April 2023 | APTN

Ancient antlers show caribou calving grounds persist over millennia

A report on a study done in the calving range of the Porcupine caribou herd has looked at antlers shed after calving for evidence of how long the area has been used by the herd. A few antlers were found that were hundreds or even thousands of years old. This suggests that not only has the herd been using the area for that long, but also that it has used it through changing climatic conditions.
23 February 2023 | cabin radio

Climate change seen as suspected factor in Western Arctic Caribou Herd decline

The news story is about a drop in one of North Americ'a's largest caribou herds. Alaska’s Western Arctic herd population is 164,000 down from a high of nearly 500,000 in 2003. The article cites climate change and industrial developent as two potential causes for the drop in numbers. The lichen available to caribou has dropped markedly in recent years, and nany caribou refuse to cross a road connecting a lead zinc mine to the coast.
2 January 2023 | alaska beacon

Valérie Courtois on what she hopes will come out of COP15: “to save the world”

A feature article on Valérie Courtois, Director of the Indigenous Leadership Initiative. The article talks about the "COP 15" meeting of the United Nations Convention on Bioversity, but also focuses on the decline of the George River caribou herd, noting that climate change and industrial development on the herds range may affect its ability to recover.
12 December 2022 | Canadian Geographic

What can caribou hear? Scientists work to understand impact of noise

A story about research conducted into what sounds caribou can hear, and the sounds around them. The first part of the research focused on what caribou can hear, and found they are particularly responsive to higher frequency sounds. The second part added audio recorders to collared caribou, "Tracking how caribou react to sounds in their environment could help define strategies for reducing development’s impact on the animals." according to the story. bonus for teachers - this story also includes sounds from the collared caribou, including a caribou burp.
21 November 2022 | Cabin radio


The article by two prominent Canadian caribou biologists raises the issue of caribou migration memories. They suggest that caribou migrations are learned behaviour, and that in some herds where numbers have dropped very low, there may be insuffucient collective memory to sustain traditional migration routes.
16 August 2022 | The Circle (WWF)

Wildlife Defenders Slam Senate Dems’ Bill for Not Protecting Refuge in Alaska

This news story quotes Gwich'in critical of the failure of the United States government to extend protections for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge that contains the calving grounds of the Porcupine Caribou herd that ranges between Canada and the United States.
10 August 2022 | Common Dreams

Qamanirjuaq caribou are adapting to earlier spring, but that might not stop their decline

A magazine article about research on the Qamanirjuaq herd, showing that the herd is starting its migration earlier and giving birth earlier, likely in response to climate change. The warming climate in the caribou range is leading to earlier greening on the caribou's summer range. The article also mentions concerns about the private sales of meat from the herd.
11 July 2022 | Canadian Geographic

Indigenous resource management guarantees cultural survival, with the benefits passed on to everyone

An opinion piece talking about the place of Indigenous peoples in economic development and environmental management. The article starts with talking about the centrality of caribou to many Indigenous peoples. "Caribou hold pride of place in many Indigenous cultures, providing a primary source of food and playing vital roles in community life. They are also a touchstone species – when threatened, a decline in their well-being is an early indicator of impending ecological collapse. "
14 June 2022 | Macdonald laurier institute

Caribou cams give insight into secret lives

A news story describing research conducted on the Fortymile caribou herd that involved fitting caribou with GPS collars that also incorporated video cameras. The cameras captured snapshots of what the caribou were feeding on, and other behaviours.
16 February 2022 | Alaska Native News

Thousands of reindeer gone astray in Lapland

This news story tells of the displacement of domesticated reindeer from northern Finalnd caused by climate-change driven icing events. The reindeer have travelled south to access food. Separating the reindeer into their original herds is a big chore for the herders, and puts a strain on the viability of the traditional occupation.
6 January 2022 | barents observer

Beverly and Qamanirjuaq Caribou Management Board seeks to more than double its funding

The lead of the story is that the Beverly and Qamanirjuaq caribou management board is looking to double its budget citing climate change as a complicating factor in conserving the herd. The story also notes that the board is revising its caribou management plan in 2022.
30 December 2021 | cbc north

Remotely-sensed trends in vegetation productivity and phenology during population decline of the Bathurst caribou herd

This is both a written interview, and the same information in audio format with the two authors of a paper that used satellite information to map out changes in vegetation in the range of the Bathurst Caribou (NWT/Nunavut). The satellite data did show changes in the vegetation patterns and the authors are onw traveeling to different places within the herd range to see what those changes look like on the ground. The researchers are curious about whether the vegetation changes might have some influence on the herd's recent drastic decline.
9 November 2021 | Canadian Science Publishing

Decades-long plan to protect caribou in Nunavut nearing completion

An online article and associated radio broadcast about the near-completion on the Nunavut Land Use Plan, and its implications for caribou conservation.
13 October 2021 | CBC radio

Caribou are vanishing at an alarming rate. Is it too late to save them?

A magazine-length article giving an overview of some of the challenges facing caribou in Canada, and the impacts of caribou decline. It includes both barren-ground and woodland caribou.
7 September 2021 | Canadian Geographic

Highly Contagious Bacteria Infects Mulchatna Caribou Herd

This 18'15" interview focuses mostly on the incidence of the disease brucellosis in the Mulchatna caribou herd in Alaska but also touches on other diseases and parasites, and the connection to climate change. The migratory southwest Alaskan herd has suffered declines similar to those seen in much of northern Canada.
23 July 2021 | KYUK (Alaska)

Mass deaths of reindeer on Yamal peninsula might be linked to climate change, scientists believe

Thousands of wild and herded reindeer starved to death last winter on the Yamal Peninsula in the Northwest part of Russia according to this news article. The starvation is blamed on "icing" events, where rain or melting in the snow pack form sheets of ice that the reindeer must dig through to get food. The icing events are linked to climate change, though the article also notes that oil and gas industry facilities have shrunk the forage area available to reindeer.
11 May 2021 | Siberian Times (Russia)

In Russian tundra tragedy, up to 80,000 reindeer might have starved to death

An icing event has led to the starvation of thousands of reindeer on the Yamal Peninsula in northwest Russia. Most of the herds are owned by local people, many of them Indigenous Nenets people. An ice layer in the snow has prevented reindeer from feeding, leading to the deaths of as many as 80,000 animals. Such events are forecast to become more common as the Arctic continues to warm.
4 March 2021 | Barents Observer

Why Drilling the Arctic Refuge Will Release a Double Dose of Carbon

This online article talks about how caribou grazing may slow climate change. Caribou grazing tends to slow the growth of taller tundra shrubs - these shrubs help permafrost to thaw, which in turn releases more greenhouse gases from the permafrost. It uses this as an argument against drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife refuge, a calving area for the Porcupine caribou herd.
24 February 2021 | yale 360

Hunting restrictions imposed after another Nunavut caribou herd dwindles

This news story talks about hunting restrictions being placed on the Dolphin and Union herd in Nunavut. The unique herd that migrates between the Victoria island and the mainland saw its population drop to about 4,000 in the last (2018) survey. The new quota allows people from local communities to take 42 caribou. Last year, just one community took as many as 200.
12 November 2020 | cbc north

Climate is changing Arctic wildlife habits; unique international study

This web story talks about a new study that looked at long term movement patterns in a variety of Arctic wildlife, including caribou. The story notes, "...there is evidence of earlier migrations to the north, and for example earlier births among northern caribou, not seen in more southerly herds. This may result in the higher mortality being observed in northern caribou herds as nutritious food may not be sprouting at the same time as migrations and calving."
6 November 2020 | Radio Canada International

New framework identifies climate change “refugia” in boreal forest

This magazine article talks about the idea of looking at what places in the northern boreal forest are least likely to change as climate change advances. Areas that change the least ('resilient' areas) are likely to be important for animals adapted to existing conditions such as caribou, so conserving these areas could be a priority.
25 June 2020 | Canadian Geographic

troubled tundra

A long magazine article on the future of the Arctic National Widlife Refuge in Alaska. The refuge is home to the calving grounds of the Porcupine caribou herd that migrates between the Northwest Territories, Yukon and Alaska. The refuge is threatened by a changing climate and by ongoing attempts to open it up for development.
24 June 2020 | earth island journal

The new north

Some great pictures of the Porcupine caribou migration here in this photo essay on the north's changing climate.
1 June 2020 | The Narwhal

Arctic caribou move up migration due to climate change

Story about how the Qamanirjuaq herd has moved up its northward migration dates in Nunavut in response to climate change 
4 May 2020 | St. Albert Today

Is Warming Bringing a Wave of New Diseases to Arctic Wildlife?

Rapid warming and vanishing sea ice in the Arctic has enabled new species, from humpback whales to white-tailed deer, to spread northward. Scientists are increasingly concerned that some of these new arrivals may be bringing dangerous pathogens that could disrupt the region’s fragile ecosystems.
6 November 2018 | Yale 360

Across Canada, caribou are on course for extinction, a prominent expert warns. What happens after that?

While the threats caribou face are complex and vary by region, the common denominator is human activity, primarily through resource development and, increasingly, climate change.
29 October 2018 | Globe and Mail

Related resources

Caribou is Life - BQCMB Caribou Management Plan 2023-2032

This 52 page plan was produced by the Beverly and Qamanirjuaq Caribou Management Board. The plan identifies four priorities for the next ten years: watching the caribou (monitoring the herds' vulnerability to various stressors); respecting the caribou (respectful and sustainable harvest practices); respecting the land (monitoring and managing land use in the herds' range); and community connections (outreach, mentorship, and communication between generations and communities). The plan notes a decline in numbers in both herds. The Qamanirjuaq herd is down from 496,000 in 1994 to 252,900 in 2022, the Beverly herd from 276,000 in 1994 to 103,400 in 2018. The plan also includes a list of activities to be taken over the next ten years by a variety of governments, organizations, and people to improve the prospect for the herds.
Beverly and Qamanirjuaq Caribou Management Board (2024)

A taste of space: Remote animal observations anddiscrete-choice models provide new insights into foragingand density dynamics for a large subarctic herbivore

An academic paper describing results from anaylzing footage from cameras on caribou collars. The paper focuses on the sorts of food that caribou of the Fortymile herd are eating. This information is important in selecting conservation areas, and in understanding how caribou diets (and numbers) might change in response to climat change.

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consensus agreement respecting implementation of the management plan for northern mountain caribou in the NWT

This is an implementation agreement for the northern mountain caribou management plan in the Northwest Territories. The plan is implemented by the Gwich'in Renewable Resources Board, the Sahtu Renewable Resources Board, and the Government of the Northwest Territories. Northern mountain caribou are listed as a 'species of special concern' nationally and in the NWT. The implementation lays out what parts of the management plan will be fully implemented, and what parts require additional resources.

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Range managementClimate changeHuman disturbanceHunting

Effectiveness of population-based recovery actions for threatened southern mountain caribou

This is an academic analysis of the factors affecting southern mountain caribou decline and recovery. It offers some hope, showing that some management efforts such as predator (wolf) control are helping with the recovery of some herds, but warns that the long term solution must include habitat protection and restoration. While the herds studied are smaller and more geographically limited than migratory caribou, there may be some applicability to management of northern herds.

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Large herbivore diversity slows sea ice–associated decline in arctic tundra diversity

An academic paper that looked at the effects of caribou and muskox on biodiversity in Arctic tundra. The loss of sea ice is affecting tundra biodiversity, but the experiment documented in this paper found that the loss of biodiversity was slower where caribou and muskox were present.

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Barren-groundClimate change

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." 

Caribou as Forest Protectors

An online magazine story generally about caribou and indigenous conservation, it contains a section dealing with the Porcupine herd, quoting Joe Tetlichi, Chair of the Porcupine Caribou Management Board. He discusses climate change, development pressures on the herd's range, hunting management, and the importance of mobilizing Indigenous knowledge.


This is a conference poster that describes the four-year project to document the Cape Churchill caribou herd. The project uses trail cameras to monitor the herd, and high school students are involved in the analysis.The project also includes fieldwork that measure such things as permafrost depth and vegetation cover in the herd's range.

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Eastern MigratoryCape ChurchillRange managementClimate change

The influence of postfire recovery and environmental conditions on boreal vegetation

This academic paper looks at previously burned forest in the Northwest Territories to see how vegetation recovers. The study found that summar forage might improve for woodland caribou (when they eat more grasses), but lichens (a major winter food for woodland caribou, and also barren ground caribou) will likely decrease with increased incidence of fires.

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Range managementClimate change

Climate-informed forecasts reveal dramatic local habitat shifts and population uncertainty for northern boreal caribou

This academic paper looks at climate-driven changes in wildfire and vegetation in parts of the Northwest Territories, and the impacts of those changes on woodland caribou. The authors modelled the likely effects of climate change on caribou populations in the region and found that, "...habitat suitability may increase in central and southwest regions of the NWT's Taiga Plains ecozone but decrease in southern and northwestern regions driven by conversion of coniferous to deciduous forests. We do not project that boreal caribou population growth rates will change despite forecasted changes to habitat suitability."

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Range managementClimate change


These posters all contain the same information in different languages (Tlicho, South Slavey, North Slavey, English) about climate driven changes in the future habitat for woodland caribou in the Northwest Territories. The information is based on an academic paper that can also be found in the resources section on this site (Climate-informed forecasts reveal dramatic local habitat shifts and population uncertainty for northern boreal caribou).
Frances Stewart (2023)

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Range managementClimate change

Shifting trails: the shrinking range of Bathurst Caribou

An excellent new web-based resource including maps and multimedia that gives a clear description of the challenges faced by the endangered Bathurst caribou herd, and the impacts of the herd's decline on the Tłı̨chǫ. The Tłı̨chǫ are a first nation whose territories to the north of Great Slave Lake overlap with the wintering range of the Bathurst herd. This site is a good case study of the challenges facing this herd and other barren ground caribou herds.
"Fate of the Caribou" project and partners (2023)

Update on the global status of wild reindeer and caribou

This online article gives a relatively brief overview of the status of wild caribou and reindeer around the circumpolar world. There are some bright spots, but, "At the global scale, the historical trend continues with declining abundance and contracting distribution for most Rangifer populations." The global population of wild caribou and reindeer is estimated ar 2.43 million, down from 2.8 million in 2016.

Svalbard reindeer winter diets: Long-term dietary shifts to graminoids in response to a changing climate

Reindeer on the far northern Norwegian island of Svalbard were thought thrreatened by climate change. However, the animals seem to be thriving at the moment, and the answer is apparently a shift in diet.

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Climate change

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Lists Dolphin and Union Caribou as Endangered Under the Endangered Species Act

A news release from the US Fish and Wildlife Service noting that the Dolphin and Union caribou herd in Canada has been listed by the USFWS as endangered. While this has no implications for the management of the herd in Canada, it means, "When this final rule is effective on Jan. 12, 2023, all personal and commercial imports and exports, except for those accompanied by permits issued for research and education purposes, are prohibited." The release also notes that listings of species outside of the US can result in a higher profile for conservation efforts. 

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Government of Canada invests $3.8 million to support barrenground caribou conservation in the Northwest Territories

A news release from the Canadian government department of Environment and Climate Change announcing an investment in three caribou projects of $3.8 million, to be matched equally by the government of the Northwest Territories. the releqase says the projects, "will monitor barren-ground caribou, their habitats, and threats that may be affecting herds in the Northwest Territories by using Indigenous and Western science and knowledge. Projects also aim to conserve and protect barren-ground caribou populations and their habitats by working to minimize human and predator impacts, and identifying important barren-ground caribou habitats such as calving grounds and migratory routes for conservation." The release doesn't mention the exact nature of the projects, or the period over which the money will be paid out.
Environment and Climate Change Canada (2022)

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Behaviour is more important than thermal performance for an Arctic host–parasite system under climate change

An academic paper reporting on combined experimentation and modeling to try to assess the effects of climate change on a common caribou/reindeer gut parasite. The paper found that not just changing temperatures, but the ways in which parasites may change their behaviours, and ways in which caribou may also change theoir behaviours are likely to be more important factors.

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Estimating lichen biomass in forests and peatlands of northwestern Canada in a changing climate

This academic paper focuses on predicting the mass of lichen (an important food for caribou) under changing climate conditions. The papr finds that over ten years, the amount of lichen in areas sampled in the NWT's Mackenzie Valley has decreased, perhaps due to an increase in other kinds of plants as the region warms.

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Climate change

Caribou and Wind Turbines Annotated Bibliography

A 75-page annotated bibliography (this means the original sources are summarized) of sources for information about the effects of wind turbines on caribou. This was a project by Heather Hayne for WWF Canada.

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Barren-groundRange managementClimate changeHuman disturbance

Caribou and wind turbines (Kivalliq region) - an overview of available information

A 22 slide presentation (exported as a pdf) providing an overview of effects of wind turbine development on Caribou. As the presentation points out, there is little information directly on the effects of wind turbines, so a lot of the information covers the effects of potential related disturbance. The presentation is related to plans to install wind turbines in the Nunavut communities of Baker Lake, Arviat and Rankin Inlet. The presentation was the result of a project by Heather Hayne for WWF Canada.

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bibliography of sources for caribou and wind turbines

This is a bibliography of sources (both academic and grey literature) that discuss the impact of wind turbines on caribou/reindeer. The resources were compiled by Heather Hayne for WWF Canada.

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Improving Peary Caribou Presence Predictions in MaxEntUsing Spatialized Snow Simulations

A 12-page (minus references) academic journal article that looks at ways of using remote sensing to assess snow conditions, and couples that with likely distribution of Peary caribou. Previous studies have linked local caribou abundance to snow/ice conditions at critical times of year, as those conditions affect the ability of caribou to access food.

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PearyClimate change

Large herbivores facilitate the persistence of rare taxa under tundra warming

An academic paper about an experiment in Greenland that found grazing by caribou and muskox may help protect local plant biodiversity in a warming climate. Without grazing, more common shrub species, like dwarf birch and willow become more dominant. 
Scientific Reports (2022)

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Format: web

Range managementClimate change

Predicting patterns of terrestrial lichen biomass recovery following boreal wildfires

This academic paper looks at lichens, an important food for caribou. It examines the current distribution of lichens, and also the recovery time for lichens after forest fires. This varies according to climate and the dominant trees in the area.
Ecosphere (2021)

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Barren-groundRange managementClimate change


This 11 page document is the agreement by the NWT management authorities responsible for the northern population of mountain caribou (woodland caribou in northern mountain habitat) to add the caribou as "a species of Special Concern" under the NWT Species at Risk Act. The report says that Indigenous knowledge indicates that the population is in decline and that "...northern mountain caribou have the potential to become Threatened if the effects of climate change continue within their habitat and localized threats are not managed effectively."

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Managing huntingRange managementClimate changeHuman disturbanceHunting

Critical summer foraging tradeoffs in a subarctic ungulate

This 38-page academic paper looks at the summer diet of the Fortymile caribou herd that ranges between Yukon and Alaska. It uses video from collars on the nimals to analyze what they're eating, and other behaviours such as avoiding insects. The video confirmed a sharp decline in eating when insects such as mosquitoes were more present, and also confirmed that lichen is an important component of the herd's diet, even in summer.
ecology and evolution (Wiley) (2021)

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Barren-groundFortymileRange managementClimate change

Caribou and reindeer migrations in the changing Arctic

This academic paper looks at factors that affect caribou migration, including climate change and development. it concludes, "...we recommend that large areas of undeveloped critical habitat, like calving grounds, be protected to conserve Rangifer. Where barriers exist, or will exist, migrations will be altered or lost."
Animal Migration (2021)

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Barren-groundRange managementClimate changeHuman disturbanceNatural factors

Ice breakers in the Arctic: Let’s talk Inuit safety

A commentary co-written by the Wildlife Conservation Society and the Ekaluktutiak Hunters and Trappers Organization about an initiative to avoid or minimize the impact of icebreakers in Arctic Canada. The Proactive Vessel Management initiative in Cambridge Bay (Ikaluktutiak) used information from local people to create something called a "Notice to Mariners" that gives people in icebreaking boats advice of how best to avoid times or places when local people or caribou are crossing the sea ice, or to minimize any threat posed by icebreaking.
wildlife conservation society/Ekaluktutiak HTO (2020)

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PearyDolphin and UnionRange managementClimate changeHuman disturbance

Population Estimate of the Dolphin and Union Caribou herd (Rangifer tarandus groenlandicus x pearyi) Coastal Survey, October 2018 and Demographic Indicators

This 49 page (in English) report contains executive summaries in Inuktitut (both syllabics and western orthography). It shows that the Dophin and Union herd has declined to an estimated 4,105 in 2018, down from 17,000 in 2015. The Dophin and Union herd is unique, being neither barren-ground nor Peary caribou. It migrates between Victoria Island and the mainland. 
Government of Nunavut (2020)

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Dolphin and UnionClimate changeHunting

Ecological insights from three decades of animal movement tracking across a changing Arctic

This academic article summarizes trends in long-term data on a variety of Arctic species movements, including barren-ground Caribou. It found, "Barren-ground caribou calved later despite occupying a similar latitudinal range as the northern boreal caribou (Fig. 3). Most importantly, barren-ground and northern woodland caribou, but not southern woodland caribou, exhibited significant trends toward earlier parturition [0.4 to 1.1 days/year (table S10)]. This is the first continental-scale retrospective evidence of potential adaptive responses to climate trends by caribou."
science magazine (2020)

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Barren-groundClimate change

Merging indigenous and scientific knowledge links climate with the growth of a large migratory caribou population

This academic paper collected both scientific and traditional knowledge inputs about the state of the Porcupine caribou herd over ten years. The study "...indicates that a large migratory caribou population can grow and improve condition in a global context of caribou decline and climate warming, thereby warning against generalizations about the influence of climate on all caribou populations."

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PorcupineClimate change

Biotic interactions govern the distribution of coexisting ungulates in the Arctic Archipelago – A case for conservation planning

An academic paper looking at what might best predict habitat for Peary caribou and muskox in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. the paper models what it considers likely key habitat for both species in late winter, and notes that most of this habitat is outside of protected areas.

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Format: web

PearyRange managementClimate change

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)

caribou and sea ice crossings near Gjoa Haven

This is part of a project website ( for community-based research in Inuit Nunangat (areas where Inuit live in Canada). The caribou project looked at caribou's use of ice crossings near Gjoa Haven, Nunavut, and how changing sea ice conditions and ship traffic could affect those crossings.

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Format: web

Range managementClimate changeHuman disturbance

study on advancing migration, calving dates for Qamanirjuaq caribou

This academic study says Qamanirjuaq caribou are migrating and calving earlier, matching earlier greening uo of calving grounds. The authors think this may show caribou are more resilient to climate change.

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.

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)

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)

Working together for Baffin Island Caribou

A brief 2013 workshop report which examines the causes and impacts of the decline of caribou on Baffin Island, and suggests some management measures.
Government of Nunavut (2013)

the refuge

This is a series of podcasts (11 altogether), most about half an hour long, focusing on the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, calving ground of the Porcupine caribou herd. This in-depth series looks at the ongoing push to allow oil and gas development in the refuge. It includes the voices of Indigenous peoples who live nearby, and depend on the caribou herd. The series started in 2019, and updates were added in 2020 and 2021.
Threshold (202)

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Format: web

PorcupineBarren-groundRange managementClimate changeHuman disturbance