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The Thelon Wildlife Sanctuary, at 26,000 square miles (67,000 kmĀ²), over twice the area of Belgium, is the largest wildlife refuge in Canada. It is located in northern Canada's Arctic region, north of the tree line, straddling the Northwest Territoriesmarker and Nunavutmarker, halfway between Baker Lakemarker and Yellowknifemarker. It is the namesake of the Thelon Rivermarker, whose river valley is resplendent with boreal forest biological diversity, hence its identification as a "Biological Site of Universal Importance" by the International Biological Program (IBP) in the 1960s.

Established in 1927 as the Thelon Game Sanctuary to conserve muskox populations, its original size was . It was expanded in 1956 to its present size of , and is home to the most northernly known moose above the tree line. In addition, the wildlife sanctuary is home to Barren-ground Caribou (Beverly and Bathurst herds), Arctic Wolf, Arctic Fox, wolverine, Arctic squirrel , barren ground grizzly bear and waterfowl.

The "Thelon Oasis" is a section of the wildlife sanctuary along the Thelon River valley between Warden Grove (the Thelon's confluence with Hanbury River) and Hornby Point. Even though it is north of the Arctic tree line, the area supports thick white spruce tree groves, raspberry, currant, and columbine plants, along with tall alluvial dwarf willow thickets and tag alder. Scientists believe the causes of this unusual proliferation of plants more common to subarctic areas include favorable fine-textured soils and climatic oasis effect, higher summer temperatures due to northward elevation fall and the absence of large lakes.(Timoney, 1995)

The wildlife sanctuary is also the ancestral home of Akilinirmiut, Inuit of the Akiliniq, a hilly area by the shores of Beverly Lakemarker (Tipjalik). While there are many lakes within the Thelon Wildlife Sanctuary, Beverly Lake is notable as the widening of the Thelon River at its northeastern border within the wildlife sanctuary, and the end of the spruce tree groves.

The wildlife sanctuary teems with game but is a hunting free zone, with support from the Inuit of Baker Lake.

A study of the history of the sanctuary would do well to include studying British explorer John Hornby (1880-1927).



  • LaRose, John. The Place Where God Began The Thelon Wildlife Sanctuary, a Northern Oasis. [Ottawa, Ont.]: Summerhill Entertainment, 2000.

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