An Endangered Species of ANWR
When I was researching this topic, I learned one thing that many people think that Caribou and Reindeer are interchangeable. But they are not. And although neither species are in danger of becoming extinct, the Caribou of ANWR will be affected if oil exploration is allowed and that can be avoided.
One similarity of the species is that they are both adaptive to cold weather with their unique coats and hooves. Their significant difference is size and location. Caribous are ? and live on the North American Continent whereas reindeer live in Scandinavia and Russia. There is also the domestic issue, reindeer are the oldest domesticated species.
Since caribous are not domesticated, they face significant challenges. Because of their migratory ways, caribous are sensitive to changes in their habitat. This species is particularly vulnerable to climate change and the two significant factors that could disrupt their habitat, oil, and gas.
Studies are being done to address the threat. The University of Alaska – Fairbanks is studying changing temperatures effects in Arctic Alaska. The nature conservancy joined the school to explore how caribou and other arctic animals might respond.
The scientists are most concerned about 58,000 caribous of the Teshekpuk Lake. In June of every year, the herd congregates, north of the lake to birth their calves and seek relief from insects. If condition change in the area it will have a profound effect on the herd.
Caribou and in some circles are also called reindeer, in five countries, Canada, Russia, Greenland, Russia, Norway, and Sweden, and one state: Alaska. As the seasons change so does the diet of the caribou. They feed on a variety of plants in the summer when vegetation is plentiful. As the seasons change so does the dietary regime of these animals. They feed on a variety of plants when the vegetation is abundant. However, during the winter caribou use their hooves to dig through snow to get to moss or lichens.
Because they are migratory and search for food across the tundra, God has adapted them for weather. The areas of their bodies that have been modified are fur, skin, and hooves. Because of their fur and skin caribou are after to stand the cold water of the northern rivers. The wide design of their hooves allows them to cross muddy or snow, and helps the dig, as mentioned earlier, and swim.
The weight of a female caribou range from 180 – 200 pounds. Male caribou, on average, can double the female weight. They have been recorded as large as 600 pounds. Gender doesn’t matter as height which ranges between 33-35 inches at the shoulder. Both genders have and do shed their antlers but at various times. The older male caribou after the rut (mating season) and females lose theirs in the summer.
The mating season or rut occurs in the fall, and the calving occurs in the spring. Female caribous only give birth to one calf.
The Porcupine Caribou
The reader may ask why I am concentrating so much attention on the caribou on the ANWR. My research has given an indication that it is the largest mass of animals in the region. There are two herds found in the area. The Porcupine herd which numbers are estimated at 152,000 and the Central herd numbers 23,400 animals. Throughout the year the caribou goes through seven distinct phases of activities, some of which involve long migrations.
During the spring migration, the caribou segregate themselves into groups which migrate at different times. Pregnant females, some yearlings, and barren cows migrate first, in early March. The bulls and juveniles follow a few weeks later. The pregnant females arrive on the north slope in mid to late May.
The caribou calves are born the last week in May and the first two weeks of June. The blessed event usually takes place between the Hulahula and the Babbage Rivers, in the foothills of the Coastal Plains. The area is generally free of snow.
There is a high degree of coordination and of the adaptation to reduce the overwhelming amount of predators, such as grizzlies, wolves, and on occasion the golden eagle. There exists a brief period of time in which the number of calves is more significant than predators.
Since the calves are able to stand and nurse within one to two hours after birth. After twenty-four hours they can run and follow their mothers over short distances. Because of this ability, they are able to escape their predators.
Post Calving Aggregation
The caribou’s most significant problem other than predators is mosquitoes. The mosquitoes emerge in late June and early July. So the caribou gathers in large groups and looks for areas where there are breezes and cold temperatures. Cold winds give the caribou time to feed and get relief from the mosquitoes. By mid to late July the herd moves off the Coastal Plain and into the foothills and mountains. Sometimes the herd will remain on the North Slope for the winter, then travel south and east to Canada. The Porcupine herd will move westward from the 1002 area and mingle with the Central Arctic Herd.
After the mosquitoes decline and the herd disperses this species is plagued by the warble fly and the nose-bot fly. Both species are nasty, but then what pest isn’t.
The warble nose fly looks like a small bumble bee. Its eggs in the fur of the abdomen legs of the caribou. The warble fly lays its eggs in the coat that covers the legs and abdomen of the caribou. Once the larvae are established, they burrow under the skin and travel to the back of the host. Then the warble fly larvae encapsulate and cut a breathing hole in the skin. Later in the months of May or June, the encapsulated larvae cut an exit hole, crawls out, and drops to the ground and develop into mature warble flies. A caribou can carry as many as a hundred of these pests.
The nose-bot fly lives up to its name by carrying live larvae which it deposits into the nostril of the caribou. The larvae then travel from the nose to the base of the throat. By spring the larvae are large enough to actually interfere with the breathing of the caribou.
The caribou can’t avoid the warble or nose-bot flies like mosquitos. Because the pests are such strong fliers the caribou stand with their heads low. In July and August caribou are seen violently shaking their heads, stamping their hooves, or running across the tundra.
The caribou can begin migrating any time from late August to mid-October, moving southward. They will roam between 100-300 miles into the Brooks Range near Arctic Village, Alaska. And sometimes they get as far as the Ogilvie and Richardson mountains of the Yukon. While continues continue to migrate south mountains of they continue to store up fat. All of them will need their fat stores for winter, but the males in particular will use massive energy reserves for the rut. During the migration the bulls are getting into brief sparring matches, displaying their aggressiveness. Another sign that the rut is near is the bull is shedding the velvet from their antlers by rubbing them against trees and shrubs.u
My reasoning for this essay is to point out that these creatures are unique with a definite purpose in the creation. One of the last comments I want to make is that these animals provide subsistence for the Inupiat Eskimos and Athabascan Indians that live along their migratory routes.
The greed of the 1% is driving this administration in destroying the last vestiges of Wilderness in this country. Oil drilling in the ANWR would disrupt the habitat of the caribou and as a result the peoples of the region. For what? Are we becoming so inhuman?