Field Notes
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Field Notes Entry   
KOYUKUK NWR: Steep Decline in Caribou Herd Initiates Study
Alaska Region, October 2, 2004
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Refuge biologists from Koyukuk/Nowitna NWR, in cooperation with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, completed a caribou collaring operation on the Galena Mountain Caribou Herd. This small herd, previously estimated at 300-500 animals, has been in decline for several years. This decline, down to possibly less than 100 animals, has prompted closure of any hunting on the herd. Prior to this project, there were only three functional radio-collars remaining in the herd this summer, making locating and counting the herd ever more difficult for biologists. In a one day operation on Oct 3, 2004, ten more radio collars were deployed in the herd (six on female calves and four on adult females.) Several of the calves, at five months, already weighed over 140 pounds, indicating excellent growth on summer range. However, biologists are concerned that only nine calves in total were seen. This very low calf survival is not likely sufficient to prevent further declines in the herd. Monthly radio tracking flights will continue year-round to monitor the survival and movement of this small resident caribou herd. One Refuge Super Cub and a helicopter chartered from Quicksilver Air of Fairbanks were used to conduct the collaring project.

Contact Info: Kristen Gilbert, 907-786-3391, Kristen_Gilbert@fws.gov
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