This article is over 5 years old and may contain outdated information.


Conserving the Porcupine Caribou

  • May 13, 2014
  • 353 words
  • 2 minutes
Expand Image

This summer, hundreds of thousands of one of Canada’s most iconic animals will be heading to “the sacred place where life begins” — the term local First Nations people use to describe the calving grounds of the Porcupine Caribou herd, located between Alaska and the Yukon.

After decades of decline, the herd has grown to an estimated 197,000 animals, thanks in part to a conservation plan (a summary of which is available here) the Porcupine Caribou Management Board implemented in 2010. The plan, which involved input from local First Nations people, sets hunting limits based on the number of animals in the herd. Its measures also include a hunt that focuses on bulls rather than cows.

Stan Njootli, a First Nations resident of Old Crow, Yukon, explains how the plan had to find a balance between protecting the caribou and ensuring aboriginal hunting rights.

I had been a member of the Porcupine Caribou Management Board since 1986, but I’ve stepped down now, to let other people be involved in the process. One of the board’s guiding principles is conservation and protection of the herd. Our first priority is that the herd is healthy and stays healthy. That means putting conservation measure in place wherever they calve or where they travel.

The Yukon Conservation Society helped us, and the Alaska Wilderness League helped with the calving grounds, which are in northeastern Alaska. We’ve been talking to the Canadian and American governments for a long time now about that area. We formed a lobby group, and people from the North went down to the States and talked to senators and members of congress about protecting the calving ground, about not opening it up for development.

When it comes to hunting regulations, each country is responsible for protecting the caribou habitat that’s in its territory. But the new plan didn’t mean we had to change our way of hunting caribou, which has always been based on need. We still have the right to hunt, but within conservation management regulations based on the need of the individual.


Are you passionate about Canadian geography?

You can support Canadian Geographic in 3 ways:

Related Content

Two caribou silhouetted against a dark, rainy landscape


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

After more than a million years on Earth, the caribou is under threat of global extinction. The precipitous decline of the once mighty herds is a tragedy that is hard to watch — and even harder to reverse.

  • 4559 words
  • 19 minutes


The (re)naming of caribou

The failure to recognize distinct species and subspecies of caribou is hampering efforts to conserve them. So, I revised their taxonomy.

  • 1540 words
  • 7 minutes
Caribou, like this one in the Northwest Territories, are increasingly threatened across the country. (Photo: Alex Elliott/Can Geo Photo Club)


At risk of extinction

Caribou numbers in Canada are dropping drastically — and quickly — leaving the iconic land mammal on the brink of extinction

  • 1578 words
  • 7 minutes
illegal wildlife trade, elephant foot, ivory, biodiversity


The illegal wildlife trade is a biodiversity apocalypse

An estimated annual $175-billion business, the illegal trade in wildlife is the world’s fourth-largest criminal enterprise. It stands to radically alter the animal kingdom.

  • 3405 words
  • 14 minutes