New population estimate for the Porcupine caribou herd

Since the last count in 2013, the population has grown from an estimated 198,000 to 218,000 caribou. The herd has grown annually at a rate of 3.7 per cent since the 2010 estimate of 169,000.

The 2017 count took place near the coastal plains in Yukon and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) – which is an important area for the herd thanks to a low number of predators and high-quality source of forage, elements which are critical to maintaining high survivorship of calves. The high quality of the estimate was achieved with high-resolution camera technology provided by the State of Alaska, paired with ideal weather conditions and tightly-grouped caribou during the survey period.

This year’s successful and strong count demonstrates our excellent collaborative management with state, territorial, First Nations and federal partners. This is a level of partnership we should all be proud of as it exemplifies what can be achieved over time for a larger cause than what we are bound to within our jurisdictions. The challenge before us will be how we continue to work with all partners for the continued health and conservation of this iconic herd, especially as we have witnessed significant fluctuations in the population of this herd from time to time.

Minister of Environment Pauline Frost

Quick facts 
  • Based on the new population estimate, wildlife biologists are 95 per cent certain the Porcupine caribou herd is between 202,000 and 235,000 caribou.

  • A total of 198,104 caribou were photographed and counted in July 2017. The remaining caribou in the estimate are determined by the number of missing radio collared caribou and their associated caribou.

  • Most of the caribou were located in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska, with 13,136 caribou photographed in Yukon.

  • The current 3.7 per cent annual growth rate is similar to the growth rate observed in the 1970–80s, when the herd was going through its last naturally occurring growth cycle.

  • The Porcupine Caribou Technical Committee is responsible for the research and monitoring of the Porcupine caribou herd by government agencies. This committee includes federal, state, and territorial representatives in Alaska, Yukon and Northwest Territories, along with representation by the Porcupine Caribou Management Board.

Media contact 

Janine Workman
Cabinet Communications

Sophie Best
Communications, Environment

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