Central Arctic caribou population drops by half over three years

Reports from state biologists indicate that the population of the Central Arctic caribou herd has dropped by about half during the past three years. The herd, which hit it’s peak of about 70,000 animals in 2010, dropped to about 50,000 in 2013.

Now, state Fish and Game biologists estimated the herd’s numbers at around 22,000, although there is no reason apparent reason for the drop.

Beth Lenart is a a state biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s Fairbanks office, who is studying the decline. She said hunting and predation have been ruled out as possible causes.

Another possible cause is nutrition. She said radio collard female caribous showed a higher than normal death rate.

The Central Arctic caribou herd’s territory covers some 44,000 square miles from the Arctic coast to the foot of the Brooks Range.

Fish and Game’s optimal management population for the Central Arctic caribou herd is 28-32,000 animals.

APTI Reporter-Producer Ellen Lockyer started her radio career in the late 1980s, after a stint at bush Alaska weekly newspapers, the Copper Valley Views and the Cordova Times. When the Exxon Valdez ran aground in Prince William Sound, Valdez Public Radio station KCHU needed a reporter, and Ellen picked up the microphone.
Since then, she has literally traveled the length of the state, from Attu to Eagle and from Barrow to Juneau, covering Alaska stories on the ground for the AK show, Alaska News Nightly, the Alaska Morning News and for Anchorage public radio station, KSKA
elockyer (at) alaskapublic (dot) org  |  907.550.8446 | About Ellen

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