Barren-ground caribou are a key northern species both ecologically and culturally. They often travel in groups over vast areas of tundra and into the boreal forest. They are classified into herds based on the relatively small calving grounds that they return to each spring to have their young. The Bathurst caribou herd is named for Bathurst Inlet, which is just east of their calving grounds. After the young are born, they travel south through the summer and often winter around the treeline.
The population of the Bathurst herd has been declining dramatically. In the mid-1980s the herd was made up of roughly 450,000 caribou but is now estimated to be around 20,000. Although caribou populations are known to fluctuate, the dramatic decrease is worrying.
Since 1996, researchers with the Government of the Northwest Territories have been placing satellite-linked GPS (Global Positioning System) collars on caribou within the Bathurst herd to track their movements. As the final stage of our research, we will investigate possible links between changing vegetation and the caribou population.
THE BATHURST CARIBOU RANGE