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.