Alaska Department of Fish and Game, July 2014: Alaska‘s largest caribou herd, the Western Arctic Herd, numbered about 235,000 animals as of July 2013 [...] That’s down from 325,000 caribou estimated in the 2011 census [...] The recent census indicates a decline of about 27 percent [actually 27.7%] since 2011. Mortality was very high during 2011-2012 [...] In addition to high adult cow mortality during 2011-2012, survival of calves born during 2011 and 2012 was relatively low.
Jim Dau, ADF&G biologist who has worked with the herd for more than 25 years: “The herd size right now, as of 2013, was 235,000 caribou, and that’s down about 27% since 2011 — so, a big, big decline in the last two years.”
Alaska News Miner, May 12, 2014: During 2011-12, there was a high mortality rate for adult cows and a low survival rate for calves [...] “I’m often asked, ‘Why the decline?’ In truth, we don’t have data to completely answer that question” [said Dau.]
2011 census data from the ADF&G: [The Western Arctic caribou] numbered about 325,000 animals [...] a five percent decline [actually 6.4% -- roughly 3% per year] since the last census was completed in July 2009 [348,000 animals], and a continuation of the four to six percent annual decline.
The Arctic Sounder, Dec. 12, 2013: [Dau] added that it’s “worrisome” how quickly mortality rates are changing from year to year. While calf production is up, the calf survival rate is going down, he said. And mortality rates for adults, especially cows, has increased.
Published: July 23rd, 2014 at 6:00 pm ET