Annual Inuvik reindeer crossing to take place today

Residents of the Northwest Territories' Mackenzie Delta are in for quite the show Sunday afternoon, as 3,000 reindeer will make the annual crossing of the ice road between the communities of Inuvik and Tuktoyaktuk.

Annual journey first began in 1935

A herd of about 3,000 reindeer cross the ice road near Tuktoyaktuk in 2015. The herd will make the 2016 crossing on Sunday afternoon. (David Thurton/CBC)

Residents of the Northwest Territories' Mackenzie Delta are in for quite the show Sunday afternoon, as 3,000 reindeer will make the annual crossing of the ice road between the communities of Inuvik and Tuktoyaktuk.

The reindeer are making their way to their calving grounds on Richards Island, near Tuktoyaktuk. It's a journey that first began in 1935, when Saami herders and Alaska Natives brought a herd of reindeer, originally from Russia, to the Mackenzie Delta.

The Canadian government made the decision to move reindeer into the area to address a shortage of caribou, traditionally used as a source of food and fur by locals

Today, herders move the reindeer to Richards Island from wintering grounds near Jimmy Lake, N.W.T. The event has drawn crowds from communities across the region as people come to witness the spectacular sight.

"The crossing itself is usually about a half an hour, 45 minutes," says Kylik Kisoun-Taylor, the owner and operator of Inuvik's Tundra North Tours. 

"They kind of slow it down so they can get a good look, but the reindeer can walk at a pretty good clip. But they usually slow it down so people can get some good pictures and stuff."

At last year's crossing, the 80th anniversary of the 1935 trip, Kisoun-Taylor estimated that spectators got as close as 45 metres away from the herd.

As long as people aren't running around or jumping, he said, the herd stays fairly calm, despite the audience.

3,000 reindeer are herded across the ice road near Tuktoyaktuk every year. 2:07

"We push them with snowmobiles, just herd them," Kisoun-Taylor said. "Get kind of close to them, and clap your hands and basically steer them."

Describing the event as "spectacular" and "amazing," Kisoun-Taylor said his company is planning to market the crossing as a tourist attraction for the region in the future. 

This year's crossing is expected to begin around 3 p.m.

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