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Thread: Western Arctic Caribou Herd stats.

  1. #1
    Member martentrapper's Avatar
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    Default Western Arctic Caribou Herd stats.

    There was some discussion/criticism about high bou bag limits here in Alaska on another thread. Since the WACH is the largest herd, with very generous bag limits, I thought I would copy/paste a few blurbs from a recent article by a F&G bio:

    By JIM DAU
    Alaska's largest caribou herd, the Western Arctic herd numbered about 401,000 animals as of July 2009 according to the Alaska Department
    of Fish and Game.
    The Western Arctic herd last peaked around 2003 at 490,000 caribou.
    Biologists classify factors that limit the size of caribou herds into two categories: density dependent and density independent factors. Density
    dependent factors exert a greater negative force on the caribou population as it grows. Examples of density dependent factors are range
    condition, predation and disease. Density independent factors possess effects not related to caribou herd size, such as weather or resource
    development. Both types of factors can affect caribou herds simultaneously, and predators can shift from a prey species that becomes scarce
    to one that is more abundant. This web of interactions makes it difficult to understand what causes caribou numbers to change.
    Although the Western Arctic herd has numbered over or around 400,000 caribou since 1990, the body condition of caribou from this herd has
    consistently remained. Additionally, the department has found no evidence that disease has become a problem for this herd. So far, it
    appears that the herd is not being limited by density dependent factors. Instead, the decline of this herd from 2003 to 2007 may have been
    largely attributable to severe icing during one or two winters.
    In 1970, the herd numbered 242,000 caribou but then declined to roughly 75,000 individuals by 1976 - an 18 percent annual rate of decline
    The department recently intensified its monitoring program so that when this herd next declines it won't catch anyone by surprise.
    The next census is scheduled for 2011.

    The above lines are from The Arctic Sounder, if you want to read the whole thing.

    This herd has been very healthy for over 20 years. High bag limits have not contributed to any overharvest. Plenty of hunting opportunity. Likely if this herd ever suffers a substantial decrease in size, it will NOT be from human harvests.
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    Thanks, MT

    With Caribou in those numbers, all is possible.
    If you can't Kill it with a 30-06, you should Hide.

    "Dam it all", The Beaver told me.....

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    Member AlaskaTrueAdventure's Avatar
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    martentrapper,
    Thanks for posting this info....interesting stuff.
    Frankly, I'm not famialiar with the WACH.
    You indicated that it has been healthy for the last 20 years. Within known history, which really isn't a very long period of time, has the WACH ever experienced a crash or an implosion like the Mulchatna herd did seven to ten years ago?

    Thanks, Dennis

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    Member martentrapper's Avatar
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    Google and search around.......or call Jim Dau in Kotz. The article I quoted says it went from 242 thou in 1970 to 75 thou by 76. That would compare to the Mulchatna, wouldn't it?
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    There was also a major crash in the early 1930, but resoned to be due to there being twice the sustainable numbers in Reindeer, who werent migrating due to being on "Grazing Grounds" and they ate the Seward pennesula and other winter areas out of food via over grazing.
    Without the slow growing moss's and Lichens, there was Big Caribou/reindeer crash, and most gave up intensive herding with that when marketing the meat was a problem, as the Great Depression was on.
    The Reindeer were almost all owned by Lomen Brothers Co., outta Nome who bought out and sometimes russled most all the small guys outta business, to become a Reindeer monopoly, in a business that was set up the "Tame the Natives" into pastoralists insted of semi nomads, by Sheldon Jackson and the US gov.
    The Feds solved that problem by makeing it law that it was a Native only enterprize, untill recently.

    Later herds were smaller with larger "grazing grounds" and were marketed only to local consumers, and the Caribou grew back in numbers. During the Depression, grazing and land care were taught to the remaining herders up this way by YCC people, and thats when science first stepped in and began recording such.
    Before that , the last time a big loss in Caribou that was well known was from 1883-1884 when Krakatoa blew and the summer was a diaster around the world, the winter was bone cracking cold too, killing all the weak and sick for sure, and animals and people up this way starved.
    Mary Shelly wrote "Frankinsteins monster" while cooped up inside from the cold weather that summmer.......
    If you can't Kill it with a 30-06, you should Hide.

    "Dam it all", The Beaver told me.....

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    Member AlaskaTrueAdventure's Avatar
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    The past decline of the WACH appears similar to the current situation in western Ak with the Mulchatna caribou herd. And that gives me hope that the Mulchatna will rebound, hopefully within my lifetime. But it does sound and read as if the WACH is currently healthy (and the place to go but multiple 'bou).

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    Good Info guys Thanks. For you guys that haven't experianced the sheer size and sight of this herd on the move at freeze up Man you have got to see it It Is really something.
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    Quote Originally Posted by strangerinastrangeland View Post
    There was also a major crash in the early 1930, but resoned to be due to there being twice the sustainable numbers in Reindeer, who werent migrating due to being on "Grazing Grounds" and they ate the Seward pennesula and other winter areas out of food via over grazing.
    Without the slow growing moss's and Lichens, there was Big Caribou/reindeer crash, and most gave up intensive herding with that when marketing the meat was a problem, as the Great Depression was on.
    The Reindeer were almost all owned by Lomen Brothers Co., outta Nome who bought out and sometimes russled most all the small guys outta business, to become a Reindeer monopoly, in a business that was set up the "Tame the Natives" into pastoralists insted of semi nomads, by Sheldon Jackson and the US gov.
    The Feds solved that problem by makeing it law that it was a Native only enterprize, untill recently.

    Later herds were smaller with larger "grazing grounds" and were marketed only to local consumers, and the Caribou grew back in numbers. During the Depression, grazing and land care were taught to the remaining herders up this way by YCC people, and thats when science first stepped in and began recording such.
    Before that , the last time a big loss in Caribou that was well known was from 1883-1884 when Krakatoa blew and the summer was a diaster around the world, the winter was bone cracking cold too, killing all the weak and sick for sure, and animals and people up this way starved.
    Mary Shelly wrote "Frankinsteins monster" while cooped up inside from the cold weather that summmer.......
    Fabulous info.
    Yours may be the single most interesting posting I've ever read here! lol.




    Mike, thanks for the thread...
    Proud to be an American!

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    Member MARV1's Avatar
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    The caribou would always migrate down as far as Southern Norton Sound every year and people in our area would easily get fresh meat throughout the winter and enjoy something different. Now with all the commercialization of hunters coming in when the first herd reaches Kotz makes it difficult as alot of the 'bou are turned around due to hunting pressures by outsiders and plane traffic... Transporters won't admit to harrassing of the herds but it happens.
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