Why are caribou important?

Caribou are the primary source of meat for most northern mainland residents and they contribute largely to the northern economy through wildlife tourism and recreational hunting. More importantly, the animals play a unique role in the history and culture of many First Nations and Inuit. (Canadian Geographic, 2007)

[Caribou] play a key role in the rich ecosystems of the Northern Hemisphere. Caribou are an important resource for indigenous peoples, a prey species for carnivores and omnivores, such as bears and wolves, and a critical source of nutrients for the soil in areas where they forage in large numbers. (Wildlife Conservation Society, 2021)

First Nations work together to monitor caribou (CBC)

Why are we concerned about woodland caribou?

Our relationship with renewable resource councils and First Nations governments allows us to learn about local wildlife management concerns and how Yukoners are affecting wildlife and wildlife habitat. One of the current concerns being expressed by managers from all local governments is about the impacts of recreation on caribou. The Southern Lakes caribou herds experienced major population declines in the1900s and, with great effort on the part of governments and citizens, including regulated hunting closures for licensed hunters and voluntary hunting moratorium by First Nations, populations are beginning to recover but are still considered sensitive. They have not reached anywhere near the numbers seen historically. Climate change, habitat loss and fragmentation, motor vehicle collisions and illegal harvest are all still threats. Recreational activities have also been shown to stress caribou and contribute to slow population recovery and even decline. All of these things represent human-caribou conflict and are preventable.

Some research has been done on the impacts of snowmobiles and other forms of motorized travel. Recommendations have been made to reduce impacts (see resources). Questions are now being asked about how dog sledding and unleashed dogs in caribou territory affect these important animals.

What is WildWise doing?

We are currently gathering information about what research is being done and where the gaps in our knowledge exist. It is our role to communicate with the public and we have taken on a role with bridging communication between dog powered sports enthusiasts and the governments that are doing the research. We are seeking as much information as possible about this subject, if you have information that you would like to share, please contact us.

In fall, 2020, we reached out to people who travel with dogs in caribou country. Our intent was to respond to concerns from wildlife managers about the impacts of dog powered activities on caribou in the Southern Lakes area. We were interested in engaging the people who know best about travelling with dogs, to learn about their experience and perspectives and to facilitate an exchange of information between them and the wildlife managers. Here is a summary of the discussion that took place at the Mount Lorne Community Centre. We are grateful to have been part of this discussion on the Traditional Territories of the Carcross/Tagish First Nation and the Kwanlin Dün First Nation. We are awaiting further direction from our partners in addressing these emerging concerns and we wish to thank all of the participants for engaging. Please read a summary of the conversation here.