Western Arctic Caribou Herd Declines from 2009, Remains Sustainable

A recent survey conducted by the Department of Fish and Game found the Western Arctic caribou herd declined by 5 percent since the last census in 2009.

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by Megan Mazurek

A recent survey conducted by the Department of Fish and Game found the Western Arctic caribou herd declined by 5 percent since the last census in 2009.

The Western Arctic is Alaska's largest herd with about 325,000 animals. Jim Dau, a biolgoist who has worked with the herd fro nearly 25 years, says the number of caribou fluctuates naturally from year to year. This year's decline is a continuation from 2009 where the number of caribou declined 4 to 6 percent from it's last peak at 490,000 caribou in 2003.

Despite the decline, biologists say the overall body condition of caribou from this herd remains good and while the number has declined it remains large and sustainable. If the decline continues in the future it may become necessary to reduce harvests.

According to a press release sent by the Department of Fish and Game, the Western Arctic Herd ranges over a 140,000 square-mile area bounded by the Arctic Ocean, the lower Yukon River and the trans-Alaska pipeline. About 40 communities and 13,000 people live within its range.

The next census is scheduled for 2013.

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