Bulls Join Protected Chisana Caribou
WHITEHORSE, Yukon -- All 20 cow caribou and 17 calves released from a Yukon wilderness pen Friday are doing fine, according to Department of Environment spokesman Dennis Senger.
Senger said an Alaska wildlife biologist tracking the radio-collared cows by air contacted department staff Tuesday with the news.
The cows and calves are in Alaska and have been joined by four or five bulls, he said.
The cows were captured last spring as part of an experiment to turn around what wildlife managers have described as desperate times for the Chisana woodland caribou herd. The herd's numbers have shrunk from an estimated 1,800 in the late 1980s to approximately 300.
A major concern to wildlife officials is the lack of young caribou in the herd to ensure breeding stock.
It was the hope of wildlife officials that by placing pregnant cows in a makeshift pen, the calves would be protected from predators immediately after their birth, when they are most vulnerable to bears and wolves.
All 17 calves born survived and were turned loose with the cows Friday.
Wildlife managers expect the cows, their calves and the bulls to rejoin the main herd.
They also predict that if the natural calf mortality of the herd remains what it has been in recent years, the 17 born in captivity could come close to equaling the number of Chisana calves that survived this spring's post-calving period in the wild.
If the experiment works, wildlife officials hope to expand the recovery program to include the capture of 40 to 60 pregnant cows next year.
It's expected after three years of capturing cows and protecting their newly born calves, the age structure of the Chisana herd will return to a point where it's again self-sustaining.
Wolf Song of Alaska, P.O. Box 671670, Chugiak, Alaska 99567-1670