Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in Heritage Sites

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Forty Mile: Fortymile Caribou Herd

Part of the Fortymile Caribou Herd crossing the Yukon River near Dawson.

Part of the Fortymile Caribou Herd crossing the Yukon River near Dawson.

Parks Canada, Townsend Coll., 31/038, #394.

During the early 1900s, the herd was the largest in Alaska and one of the largest in the world. In 1920, renowned biologist Olaus Murie estimated that the herd was as large as 568,000 animals. At that time, the herd ranged from Whitehorse, Yukon, to the White Mountains, north of Fairbanks, Alaska – some 85,000 square miles.

Due to periodic cold winters, over-hunting, and high predation rates, the herd dwindled to so few animals that, after 1974, the herd was rarely sighted in Yukon. In 1994 the Fortymile Caribou Herd Management Planning Team was organized, representing public and government agencies in both Alaska and Yukon. Through a program of controlled hunting, non-lethal predator control and habitat protection, the herd recovered to an estimated 40,000 animals in 2002. As the herd size increased, so did the amount of their traditional range being used. In the fall of 2002, a portion of the herd crossed the Yukon River at the mouth of the Fortymile River for the first time in fifty years.

To learn more, see the story Fortymile Caribou Herd (PDF) from the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in Interpretive Manual.