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Northern Mountain Caribou are members of the deer family. Compared to Barren-ground Caribou, Northern Mountain Caribou are larger and darker, have thicker and broader antlers, and have longer legs and a longer face. Northern Mountain Caribou look the same as Boreal Caribou but have different habitat preferences and behaviour.

Weight: 110 to 210 kg (240 to 460 lb). Height at shoulder: 1.0 to 1.2 m (3.3 to 4.0 ft).

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Northern Mountain Caribou live in the Mackenzie Mountains in large groups, sometimes in the thousands.

Range map information

Northern Mountain Caribou live throughout the Mackenzie Mountains in open alpine and sub-alpine areas in summer, and montane spruce-lichen forest areas with shallow snow cover in winter. They have distinct migrations where they move up or down in elevation depending on the season. 

Northern Mountain Caribou use ice patches to escape insects and cool down in the summer.

Caribou are the only species of the deer family where both males and females have antlers.

There are approximately 50,000 - 55,000 Northern Mountain Caribou in the NWT, Yukon and northern British Columbia.

The herds in the NWT include the Bonnet Plume (about 5,000 animals), Redstone (at least 10,000 animals) and Nahanni Complex (including Coal River, La Biche and South Nahanni; about 3,000 animals). Most information on population trends in the NWT is outdated, except for the South Nahanni herd with a stable or possibly increasing population. Populations are generally thought to be stable based on scientific information, however Indigenous knowledge holders have reported population declines in certain areas or displacement.  

While there is some localized hunting pressure in mountain areas with road access, overall there is limited harvesting of Northern Mountain Caribou because they live in very remote areas. Potential threats include mineral exploration activities, which can disturb Northern Mountain Caribou and increase access into their range. Increased access can lead to increased hunting pressure, recreation activities, and easier access for predators.

Climate change is also causing loss of key habitat for northern mountain caribou. There are fewer of the fewer summer ice patches that they use to cool down and escape insects.

COSEWIC assessed Northern Mountain Caribou as a species of Special Concern in Canada in 2002; this status was re-examined and confirmed in 2014. Northern Mountain Caribou were listed as Special Concern under the federal Species at Risk Act in 2005. A national management plan is available on the federal Species at Risk Public Registry.

The NWT Species at Risk Committee assessed Northern Mountain Caribou as a species of Special Concern in the NWT in 2020. In 2021, Northern Mountain Caribou was listed as Special Concern in the NWT under the Species at Risk (NWT) Act. In 2023, the NWT adopted the federal management plan for Northern Mountain Caribou with an NWT addition. The NWT management plan is available here

Part of the Northern Mountain Caribou range in the NWT is protected within Nahanni and Naats’ihch’oh National Park Reserves.

Dehcho Gwich'in Sahtú