The Porcupine Caribou Herd's range covers over 250,000 square kilometres of northern tundra. Understanding changes to the herd's habitat or potential impacts of development in the area is important to ensure the sustainable management of the herd. The PCMB relies on the Porcupine Caribou Technical Committee — a team of experts — to provide advice about the herd's use of its habitat and the influence of human activities in its range .
The Porcupine Caribou herd migrates vast distances each year, usually between Alaska and Yukon's arctic coast in the spring and the Yukon's Ogilvie Mountains in winter. This animated map lets you explore the migration patterns of Porcupine caribou over time using satellite data gathered since 1997.
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For the most part, the range of the Porcupine Caribou herd is undeveloped. However, there are a few critical locations where development activities are increasing and may pose challenges to the herd.
The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1980 under the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act. Section 1002 of the act defers a decision regarding oil and gas exploration along the coastal plain, now referred to as the "1002 Lands". The area is critical calving habitat for the Porcupine Caribou herd and the US Congress debate over whether or not to allow oil and gas development in the area has been an important focus for the PCMB.
Oil and gas exploration has been happening in the Eagle Plains basin, located within the Porcupine Caribou herd's winter range, since the late 1950s. Increasing interest in developing oil and gas resources over the past decade has meant more activity in the range of the herd.
The Dempster Highway connects Inuvik, NWT to Dawson City, Yukon. The 670-kilometre road runs through the Porcupine Caribou herd's winter range. The road provides hunters with easy access to caribou, which means that caribou can be harvested when they are close to the highway. Road traffic can accidentally kill caribou and disturb migration patterns.
The Peel River watershed is part of the Porcupine Caribou herd's winter range. The area is currently the focus of mineral exploration activity and at the centre of a land use debate between those who would like to see the area developed and those who would like to see it protected.
While the range of the Porcupine Caribou herd is considered relatively pristine, understanding how the combination of current and future activities – along with climate change – might impact the herd allows managers to better predict the cumulative effects of these activities. The PCMB has been working with researchers to develop models to understand cumulative effects and help with management decision-making.