Photo: Sonny Parker


Illustration: Heidi Marion

The Southern Lakes Caribou of Southern Yukon and northwestern British Columbia have been under recovery efforts since 1993, with a steady but slow increase in population numbers.

Representatives from nine governments are working together to create a management plan rooted in lived, traditional knowledge to ensure a sustainable, long-lasting and respectful relationship between caribou and people within the Southern Lakes region.

Caribou have taken care of us, and we continue to take care of them through an ongoing relationship of sharing, caring and respect.

The Southern Lakes area is a magnificent region of plateaus, rolling hills, and broad valleys with abundant large, glacier-fed lakes. It extends 127,729 kmfrom south-central Yukon into northern British Columbia, encompassing the Traditional Territories of Champagne and Aishihik First Nation, Carcross/Tagish First Nation, Kwanlin Dün First Nation, Ta’an Kwäch’än Council, Teslin Tlingit Council and Taku River Tlingit Council.

These areas are home to many species of wildlife and most of the Yukon’s population. The increasing human population presents a challenge for wildlife managers because it profoundly impacts wildlife and their habitat.

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Map: Government of Yukon

The caribou and people of the Southern Lakes

The Southern Lakes woodland caribou population is a part of the larger Northern Mountain population, whose range extends through northern British Columbia, Yukon, Northwest Territories and Alaska. This population comprises four relatively distinct herds: Carcross, Atlin, Ibex and Laberge.

Woodland caribou are closely associated with old-growth forests and are extremely sensitive to habitat alterations and human activities within their range. Within the past 100 years, caribou across Canada have declined significantly, and these declines are largely attributed to both natural and anthropogenic landscape alterations. The Southern Lakes population is an exception to this nationwide decline due to collaborative efforts among nine different governments aimed at population recovery.

The people of the Southern Lakes are a mixture of both status and non-status individuals. The Southern Lakes First Nations people, who had relied on a caribou harvest for thousands of years, took the massive step of voluntarily closing their subsistence harvest.

Illustration: Heidi Marion

The Yukon government also closed all licensed harvests of Southern Lakes Caribou. Government biologists began collaring studies to gather important data about caribou movements on the land. First Nations developed their own monitoring program, sending out game guardians to monitor and educate the public.


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