The Narwhal discusses the new North. Novel patterns are emerging in the Arctic, where people and wildlife are adapting to a world irrevocably altered by the climate crisis.
After graduating from university in 2000, I took a teaching job in the remote First Nations community of Old Crow, along the Porcupine River in northern Yukon. The Gwich’in of Old Crow chose the location of the community to align with the spring and fall migrations of the Porcupine caribou herd. Every year the caribou pass Old Crow as they migrate to and from their calving grounds in Alaska’s Arctic Coastal Plains.
The caribou normally cross the Porcupine River in April or early May when it’s still frozen. One June, when Gwich’in Elder Robert Bruce took me upriver on a spring hunt, we were seeing caribou cow with calves, two or three days old, swimming across the swollen, freezing river.
Calving had happened in the boreal forest south of Old Crow. The caribou were a week’s travel short of the calving grounds.