Porcupine caribou herd grows to 169,000
March 2nd, 2011 | Alaska Newspapers Staff
A July 2010 photocensus shows the Porcupine Caribou Herd has grown to an estimated 169,000 animals, according to a statement from state Fish and Game.
"There's no doubt the herd has grown since 2001. People on both sides of the Alaska-Canada border are pleased," said Northeast Alaska Assistant Area Biologist Jason Caikoski.
The herd peaked in size in 1989 at 178,000 caribou. Four photocensus surveys over the period of 1992-2001 documented a decline in the herd to 123,000 caribou. The 2010 effort is the first successful photocensus on the Porcupine herd since 2001, and Fish and Game staff members are pleased with the quality of the estimate.
"Caribou were aggregated well, and most of the aerial photos are good quality. We accounted for all of the active radiocollars in the herd, which means we likely didn't miss many caribou during the survey," said Caikoski.
The animals are at the heart of the debate over oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, where they do much of their calving.
Photocensus efforts during 2002-2009 were not successful do to a variety of factors including weather, caribou movements, and poor herd aggregation. The Porcupine herd ranges in the northeastern part of Alaska and into Yukon, Canada, and is an important resource for residents of both areas. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game and Canadian wildlife agencies cooperatively manage the herd