A Herd of What?



A Herd of What?

No, we didn’t say a herd of porcupines. The annual migration of the Porcupine caribou herd is the largest migration of any land animal on Earth. The 120,000-strong herd spends most of the year in the boreal forests of the Yukon and Alaska before migrating each spring to calving areas in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (Alaska) and Ivvavik National Park (Yukon). Caribou herds are a true emblem of the North, and they are integral to northern ecosystems. Barren-ground caribou shape the northern landscape, riddling the terrain with trails and serving as prey for wolves, bears, golden eagles and other carnivores.

The Yukon offers a rare opportunity to see migrating caribou—the Dempster Highway traverses the herd’s route and wintering grounds, and wilderness journeys like Firth River rafting trips cross their path. Caribou is of great cultural importance to the First Nations people of Northern Yukon and Alaska, particularly to the Vuntut Gwitch’in community of Old Crow, a tiny fly-in community north of the Arctic Circle. Vuntut and Ivvavik National Parks were both created to help protect the sensitive habitat of the Porcupine caribou herd. For more than a decade, debate in the United States has been very heated over accessing large reserves of oil located under the Alaskan calving grounds.

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