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Grizzly bears, black bears, wolves, coyotes, cougars/ mountain lions,bobcats, wolverines, lynx, foxes, fishers and martens are the suite of carnivores that originally inhabited North America after the Pleistocene extinctions. This site invites research, commentary, point/counterpoint on that suite of native animals (predator and prey) that inhabited The Americas circa 1500-at the initial point of European exploration and subsequent colonization. Landscape ecology, journal accounts of explorers and frontiersmen, genetic evaluations of museum animals, peer reviewed 20th and 21st century research on various aspects of our "Wild America" as well as subjective commentary from expert and layman alike. All of the above being revealed and discussed with the underlying goal of one day seeing our Continent rewilded.....Where big enough swaths of open space exist with connective corridors to other large forest, meadow, mountain, valley, prairie, desert and chaparral wildlands.....Thereby enabling all of our historic fauna, including man, to live in a sustainable and healthy environment. - Blogger Rick

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Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Beverly Caribou Herd, 127,000 strong in the most northern land unit of Canada(Nunavut), have shifted their calving grounds 250 meters north of their historical haunts..........It had been feared that the herd was in a complete free fall as population estimates emanating from their historical habitat was spotty at best............As a key animal component of the Nunavut terrestrial system, it is important for researchers to determine what has caused the shift in territory--------What has weighed heavier-----range-wide human disturbances such as road construction and increased hunter access to caribou.....(or) harassment by biting insects; food limitations; predation, and forest fires...............Based on all we have shared together on this blog, my bet saids human disturbance!

Beverly caribou decline not as drastic as once feared: new study

"I think habitat deterioration and disturbance is a factor"

The Beverly caribou herd didn't disappear, but is now calving along the Queen Maude Gulf coast. (FILE PHOTO)
The Beverly caribou herd didn't disappear, but is now calving along the Queen Maude Gulf coast. 
The Beverly caribou herd lost half its population between 1994 and 2011, a Nunavut government study has found, but the decline is not as bad as officials once feared.

The herd's population stood at 276,000 animals, an all-time record, in 1994. 
But the June 2011 survey, released last week, showed there are only an estimated 124,000 caribou left within the Beverly herd and an estimated 83,300 caribou within the Ahiak herd.
The study also confirmed the Beverly herd has shifted its calving grounds about 200 to 300 kilometres north of breeding grounds documented in previous surveys.That explains why surveyors only found 93 caribou cows in the herd's former calving grounds in 2007 — the calving grounds had moved.

So amid fears about drastic declines in northern barren ground caribou populations, the report's clarification of changes in the population of the two herds is taken as positive news by government and conservation officials.The Nunavut department of environment described the population count as "the most accurate estimate for the Beverly herd to date.""Caribou are and essential component of Nunavut's terrestrial ecosystem," said James Arreak, Nunavut's environment minister, in a news release.
"They represent an indispensable source of sustenance, clothing, and economic opportunities through guided hunts, tourism, and commercial hunts," he said. "And the importance of the animal "to Nunavummiut and our cultural heritage cannot be overstated."

NUNAVUT Canadian Territory
Nunavut is the largest, northernmost and newest territory of Canada. It was separated officially from the Northwest Territories on April 1, 1999 via the Nunavut Act and the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement

The study looked at caribou abundance on the Beverly calving grounds in the vicinity of Beverly Lake and the Queen Maud Gulf, as well as the calving range of the Ahiak subpopulation in the vicinity of the Adelaide peninsula, east to Pelly Bay.

Government-commissioned biologists and 38 community representatives, including 34 Nunavut beneficiaries, two Saskatchewan representatives and two Government of the Northwest Territories' representatives participated in the field program.They used cutting-edge digital tools and fly-over visual surveillance of the herd's calving and foraging grounds for their population estimates – 124,000 Beverly caribou for the summer of 2011.

Reasons for this shift in the calving area are unknown, but it may be related to numerous human and natural factors: range-wide human disturbances, such as road construction and increased hunter access to caribou; harassment by biting insects; food limitations; predation, and forest fires. 

Similar shifts have been documented for other barren-ground caribou herds.
Whether the herd is at the low or high end of its population cycle is hard to tell, said Ross Thompson, executive director of the Beverly and Qamanirjuaq Caribou Management Board.
But he said the calving grounds' northward shift appears to be in areas where levels of hunting are lower.

"It's in a new area, where there's concern about non-traditional communities harvesting the herd," said Thompson.The herd's range extended further south in the past, to areas that included aboriginal communities in Saskatchewan and Northern Manitoba.

Communities in these areas may be facing shortages due to the shift, "no question about it," he said.
Declines in population, which are still the prevailing trend, can't just be pinned on hunting or any other single factor, said Thompson.

The priority in conservation must be to protect calving grounds."If you get a low calving rate for whatever reason – parasites, predation, disturbance, poor weather – that really affects [growth] because it's such a low percentage that feeds back into the population," he said."Personally I think habitat deterioration and disturbance is a factor."Pin-pointing any single one "would be dangerous," he added, because several effects are at play at any given time.

Thompson praised the study as an important step for caribou management over the next 10 years, which coincides with the renewal of his management board's mandate to protect the herd for the benefit of aboriginal treaty rights.

The Government of Nunavut plans to monitor any changes from the June 2011 results.
A 2011 study by John Nagy, wildlife biologist and researcher from the University of Alberta, also concluded the Beverly herd had moved further north in Nunavut to calve near the western Queen Maud Gulf coast rather than at its "traditional" calving ground. That also confirmed the traditional knowledge of elders who maintained the herd simply relocated.

The financial value of caribou as a staple to Nunavummiut has been "conservatively" estimated to be well over 22 million dollars per year territory wide, the GN said.

You can read the full caribou study here.
This map from the recent study of the Beverly and Ahiak caribou shows where the animals now calve.
This map from the recent study of the Beverly and Ahiak caribou shows where the animals now calve.

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