Yukon Big Game Species


black bear

Black Bears

Black bears are distributed from the B.C.-Yukon border to the northern tree line near Old Crow. They are most numerous in the southern and central parts of the territory. A rough estimate puts the Yukon black bear population at about 10,000 animals.

The Yukon’s mountainous terrain tends to concentrate the range of the black bear. Unlike the grizzly, this is a forest bear and its range in the Yukon is confined to the river valleys and their finger-like strips of forested habitat.

All cubs and female black bears are protected from hunting. A black bear cub includes any black bear that is less than two years old.

Note: Any black bears found together in autumn are a female and cub family group. They are protected. A female black bear may hide her cubs in a tree for up to five hours while she feeds. So please take the time to make sure that the bear you are hunting is alone.

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Public sighting records indicate both mule and white-tailed deer occur naturally in Yukon. Sightings of deer date back to the early 1920s, with mule deer reported much more frequently than white-tailed deer. Sightings and road kills indicate a steady increase in deer numbers and distribution since records have been kept. Deer are now seen regularly as far north as Dawson.

Deer are known to be sensitive to severe winter conditions, which may result in large swings in the number of animals noted from year to year. At the northern distribution of their range in Yukon, deer are more likely to be vulnerable to severe winters.

The public is asked to report all deer sightings to the TIPP Line at 1-800-661-0525 or online. This information helps Environment Yukon track the health and distribution of deer populations throughout Yukon.

White-tailed deer especially rare

Although the current regulation allows for harvesting of either species of deer found in Yukon, hunters are asked to voluntarily refrain from killing white-tailed deer. These animals are far less common than mule deer in Yukon and even a small harvest could be harmful to their population.

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Yukon’s elk are the furthest north of all elk in North America. With the exception of small numbers moving into southeast Yukon from B.C., they are descended from animals introduced from Alberta’s Elk Island National Park in the 1950s and 1990s.

The Takhini herd ranges mainly in the Takhini Valley west of Whitehorse, to the Aishihik River. An estimated 230 elk are currently in this herd. The smaller Braeburn herd ranges along the North Klondike Highway between Fox Lake and Carmacks. We estimate the herd contains about 100 animals.

Hunters are asked to report unusual elk sightings to the Moose, Elk and Deer Biologist at 867-667-5787. This information helps Environment Yukon track the health and distribution of elk populations.

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Mountain goats are relatively uncommon in Yukon where they are at the northern limit of their range. An estimated 1,700 goats are found only in the lower third of the territory, mainly in isolated pockets in the southwest and in the Logan Mountains north of Watson Lake. More than half of the Yukon’s mountain goats live in Kluane National Park and the adjoining Kluane Wildlife Sanctuary.

Goat management decisions must be made with caution because of the nature of this species. When threatened, goats run to cliffs where they are out of reach of natural predators, but not hunters. Their range use is strongly traditional and predictable because of specialized habitat requirements. While these traits make things easy for goat hunters, they make goats vulnerable to over-harvest. Small populations (less than 50) may not withstand any harvest. Populations ranging from 50-100 may withstand a very low level of harvest. Since goats are difficult to census, our ability to identify population declines is limited.

Mountain goats have lower population growth rates than other ungulates, and adult female survival strongly influences whether or not a population is increasing or decreasing. You are encouraged to select male goats. Males tend to be solitary and are up to 30 per cent larger than females. They stretch forward to urinate, while females squat. The most effective way to identify a male is by stalking close enough to study the size and shape of the horns. Female goats with young are protected from hunting.

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grizzly bear

Grizzly Bears

Grizzly bears inhabit the entire Yukon from the B.C. border to Herschel Island-Qikiqtaruk off the Arctic coast. Since Yukon’s northern interior environment is less productive than southern or coastal environments, our bears are spread fairly thin over the landscape. The territorial population is estimated at 6,000 to 7,000 animals.

Wildlife managers are working to reduce the harvest of female bears and the number of bears that are destroyed in human-wildlife conflicts each year. The reproductive rate of the species is so low that the loss of a few female bears can have a significant impact on a population.

One Grizzly Bear Every Three Years

The bag limit for grizzly bears in all open subzones is one bear every three licence years. This means if you shoot a grizzly bear in the 2015-16 season you cannot take another grizzly anywhere in the Yukon until the 2018-19 season.

Defending Life or Property

If you are forced to kill a bear in defence of life or property, you must report the kill to a Conservation Officer as soon as possible. You will be required to submit the head and the pelt with claws attached.

Grizzly Bears in Ni’iinlii Njik (Fishing Branch) Wilderness Preserve

Environment Yukon asks all hunters not to hunt grizzly bears inside the Ni’iinlii Njik (Fishing Branch) Wilderness Preserve. The Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation is asking its citizens to comply with this request as well.
Bear hunting has been prohibited in Fishing Branch Ecological Reserve at the centre of this protected area since 1993. Please avoid hunting grizzly bears in the wilderness preserve that surrounds the ecological preserve.

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2015 Moose Hunter Effort Survey

Moose densities throughout Yukon generally range between 100 and 250 moose for every 1,000 km2 of suitable moose habitat, although densities in excess of 400 moose for every 1,000 km2 have been recorded in a few areas. Yukon moose densities are relatively low when compared to those observed in other regions of North America as they co-exist with three relatively intact predator populations (wolves, black bears, and grizzly bears).

Moose are managed in 67 Moose Management Units (MMU). An MMU can consist of as few as one or as many as 23 Game Management Subzones. Boundaries of these MMUs are updated periodically when new information is available. See the Yukon MMU map (pdf icon370 KB).

In 2017, the Government of Yukon conducted early winter population surveys in the Mayo (the majority of the Mayo and Upper Klondike Highway MMUs) and Dawson (Dawson West MMU) areas. We also completed two recruitment (calf survival) surveys in the Haines Junction Area (Alsek North/Alsek South/Tatshenshini River and Cultus/Jarvis River/Paint Mountain MMUs.

Find more information on recent moose surveys here.

Kluane River/Duke River MMU (GMS 5-18, 5-20, 6-08, 6-09)
Harvest of moose in the Kluane/Duke River area is estimated to be at or above sustainable levels. In response, the Yukon government, the First Nation, local Renewable Resources Council and Parks Canada are working collaboratively on a strategy to achieve sustainable harvest of moose in this area. Important parts of the strategy include reducing total harvest and promoting the use of alternative meat sources, such as fish and bison, for the community. Education and communication initiatives related to this community initiative are ongoing.

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Polar Bears

Throughout the winter, small numbers of polar bears hunt along a narrow strip of the Yukon’s Arctic coast, on Herschel Island-Qikiqtaruk, and on the offshore ice. In midsummer, these bears move northward with the retreating edge of the ice pack.

Through their land claim agreement, the Inuvialuit of the western Arctic have the exclusive right to harvest polar bears on the Yukon’s North Slope

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In Yukon, only full-curl rams may be taken on a Big Game Hunting Licence. If you are not absolutely sure it’s a full-curl ram, don’t shoot.

When viewed from the side, with horn bases aligned, a full curl male has at least one horn that extends beyond a line running from the centre of the nostril to the lowermost edge of the eye. Check the horns carefully. Sheep horns viewed from below can appear larger than they really are.

Over the past several years, Environment Yukon has become aware of the proliferation of trails into thinhorn sheep ranges, particularly where these occur near major transportation corridors in south-central and southwestern Yukon. Increased use of existing trails and expanding trail networks may lead to increased disturbance and displacement of sheep from traditional ranges. This can also lead to unsustainable rates of harvest. Please consider this when planning your sheep hunt.

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Wolves, Coyotes, Wolverines

Coyotes and wolves may be taken on a big game licence. Wolverines may be taken on a big game licence only by resident hunters and hunters guided by a registered Yukon outfitter. It is unlawful to waste the pelts of these animals.


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Wood Bison

2015 Bison Hunter Effort Survey

Bison were reintroduced to the Yukon in the late 1980s as part of a national recovery program. Since the release of 170 bison about 25 years ago the herd has grown to about 1,470 animals and expanded its range into the Aishihik, Sekulmun and Hutshi lakes watersheds.

While wolves are now preying on bison, hunting is still the primary means of limiting the herd’s size. Wood bison are open to hunt by permit only. Without hunting, the herd would grow at a rate of 15-20 per cent per year. Since 1998, more than 1,930 animals have been harvested, with about 60 per cent of these being male and 40 per cent being female.

In the 2015-16 season, 187 bison were taken: 101 males and 86 females. The Aishihik Wood Bison Herd provides hunters with an alternative to moose and caribou. A large bull bison can weigh up to 1,000 kg (2,200 lb) on the hoof. Even though most of this weight is from the head and viscera, one animal can still yield 300 kg of meat. An average adult cow bison weighs about 450 to 630 kg (1,000 to 1,400 lb).

Hunters are encouraged to harvest cow bison. Recent projections suggest that an increased harvest of cows will help to achieve the population size needed to keep the herd at the population target of near 1000 animals. If there is more than one hunter with a permit and seal in the party, consider taking the calf in addition to the cow. Please take the extra time to identify and harvest a cow.

Wounding loss is a serious concern for this herd. Wounded bison can suffer for years from bullet injuries and in many cases die a slow, painful death. It is important to make every effort to track down and kill a bison you have wounded.

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Contact Client Services

Phone: 867-667-5652
Toll-free (in Yukon, NWT & Nunavut):
1-800-661-0408 ext. 5652
Fax: 867-393-7197

Email: environmentyukon@gov.yk.ca
Address: Box 2703 (V-3A) Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada Y1A 2C6