New survey results from the Beverly caribou herd have found the population to be half the size it was when the last survey was done.
The 2011 survey estimated there to be about 124,000 Beverly caribou. The last calving ground population survey, in 1994, estimated there to be more than 270,000 in the Beverly herd.
Ross Thompson, executive director of the Beverly and Qamanirjuaq Caribou management board, said the Beverly herd's decline needs to be taken seriously.
"It's a combination of factors that stem from habitat changes, harvest is certainly a factor, predation... all these things that are called cumulative effects have added up, I think, to cause the decline," he said.
Thompson said the change may be part of a natural population cycle but he urged governments to protect calving grounds to help the herds thrive.
The size and health of the Beverly herd had been a mystery for many years. There had been no comprehensive survey done since 1994, and some evidence suggested the herd was in trouble — maybe even dying off.
Thompson admits the new survey results have eased some of that worry by finding a still-sizeable population.
"The results are of concern, but not as bad as some of us feared initially," he said.
The range of the Beverly herd includes parts of N.W.T., Nunavut, northern Saskatchewan and northern Manitoba.