Missing Canadian caribou herd never ‘lost’ in the first place

A vast herd of northern caribou that scientists feared had vanished from the face of the Earth has been found, safe and sound - pretty much where aboriginal elders said it would be all along. Photo: Nathan Denette, The Canadian Press. Almost missed this story from last week

You’ll remember a few years ago, the fate of Canada’s Beverly caribou herd was big news.

The once thriving herd of 276,000, that roamed from Canada’s northern prairies to the country’s northern territories was said to have dwindled to what scientists called alarming numbers.

A survey released at the time suggested that the number or caribou cows visiting the herd’s traditional calving grounds had fallen 98 per cent in the previous 14 years.

Everything from climate change to other environmental factors were blamed for the decline.

But a recent study suggests that the herd was never lost in the first place, it had just moved – just as the region’s aboriginal elders had been suggesting all along.

John Nagy, the lead author of the study, is quoted by The Canadian Press last week saying herd size was previously based how many of the animals returned to caribou calving grounds.

But in fact, some caribou herds change their calving grounds, he says.

In the case of the Beverly herd, they’d merely changed their calving grounds from Baker Lake, in Canada’s eastern Arctic territory of Nunavut to the Queen Maud Gulf in the territory’s Far North.

To read the Canadian Press story, click here.

Related Links:

Beverly Caribou Herd, Government of Northwest Territories

Beverly and Qamanirjuaq Caribou Management Board, Official website

Write to Eilís Quinn at eilis.quinn(at)cbc.ca

Eilís Quinn, Eye on the Arctic

Eilís Quinn is an award-winning journalist and manages Radio Canada International’s Eye on the Arctic news cooperation project. Eilís has reported from the Arctic regions of all eight circumpolar countries and has produced numerous documentary and multimedia series about climate change and the issues facing Indigenous peoples in the North.

Her investigative report "Death in the Arctic: A community grieves, a father fights for change," about the murder of Robert Adams, a 19-year-old Inuk man from Arctic Quebec, received the silver medal for “Best Investigative Article or Series” at the 2019 Canadian Online Publishing Awards. The project also received an honourable mention for excellence in reporting on trauma at the 2019 Dart Awards in New York City.

Her report “The Arctic Railway: Building a future or destroying a culture?” on the impact a multi-billion euro infrastructure project would have on Indigenous communities in Arctic Europe was a finalist at the 2019 Canadian Association of Journalists award in the online investigative category.

Her multimedia project on the health challenges in the Canadian Arctic, "Bridging the Divide," was a finalist at the 2012 Webby Awards.

Her work on climate change in the Arctic has also been featured on the TV science program Découverte, as well as Le Téléjournal, the French-Language CBC’s flagship news cast.

Eilís has worked for media organizations in Canada and the United States and as a TV host for the Discovery/BBC Worldwide series "Best in China."

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