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The caribou herds
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Co-managing the herds
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The caribou herds

In the past, the aboriginal people of northern Manitoba, northern Saskatchewan and the adjacent portions of the Northwest Territories and Nunavut depended on the Beverly and Qamanirjuaq caribou for food, clothing and shelter. Their days circled around the caribou, following these migratory animals during hunting seasons. When caribou were scarce, starvation -- and even death -- sometimes ensued.

Modern times have reduced their dependence on caribou -- but not the significance of the animal to the culture and lifestyle of aboriginal people. With the high cost of transporting food and other goods into northern Canada, caribou meat continues to be an important country food.

In the late 1970s, population estimates caused some groups to fear the caribou herds were becoming endangered. There was concern, too, that rising industrial development and the large number of people coming north could hurt the caribou's environment. Fortunately, the changing times also brought about changing attitudes, and for the first time Canadian federal, provincial, and territorial governments turned to caribou hunters to work together as a team in "co-managing" the herds. That, in turn, gave rise to the Beverly and Qamanirjuaq Caribou Management Board.

  Beverly herd Qamanirjuaq herd
Estimated population 276,000 (1994) 348,000 (2008)
Distribution • the herd's range straddles Saskatchewan/NWT, with portions in Nunavut, Manitoba and Alberta
• the range stretches at least 600 kilometres from west to east, from Great Slave Lake, NWT to east of Dubawnt Lake, Nunavut; and from Slave River in Alberta, across northern Saskatchewan, to near Nueltin Lake, Manitoba. See a map of the caribou range here.

• the herd's range straddles Manitoba/Nunavut, with portions in southeastern NWT and northeastern Saskatchewan
• the range runs 500 kilometres from the west coast of Hudson Bay across the Kivalliq Region of Nunavut and northern Manitoba. In the other direction, it stretches north of Baker Lake, Nunavut to south of Brochet, Manitoba. See a map of the caribou range here.

Unique characteristics • these year-round inland travellers journey up to 2,000 kilometres annually across wilderness, including hundreds of wild rivers and lakes, and one of North America's largest protected natural areas, the Thelon Wildlife Sanctuary • the Qamanirjuaq herd treks more than 1,000 kilometres yearly, but its range use and movement patterns are inconsistent and unpredictable. Hunters have frequently faced limited access to caribou from different parts of the range
Detailed herd profile (from Project Caribou) The Beverly Caribou Herd – Continental Wilderness Travelers The Qamanirjuaq Caribou Herd – An Arctic Enigma