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Help the McNeil Bear Sanctuary off linmits to hunting

Caribou Decline

Letters / Fairbanks Daily News-Miner / October 10, 200

To the editor:

I read the article on Oct. 5 by Charles J. Hanley about caribou herds across the Arctic and how the herds are in decline. Biologists in the Eurasian Arctic are searching for clues and think they have found some.

They believe the impact of climate change is causing the disruption of feeding habits. They feel this is causing the decimation of the species.

Yet in Alaska, our herds are stable by comparison. There is a reason for this.

Alaska biologists studied our caribou herds for decades and have proof as to why our herd numbers fluctuate.

They have developed recovery plans. In some areas, they have implemented those plans and had success.

The areas where the plans were not implemented, such as Game Management Unit 20A, have seen a decrease in caribou numbers. The recovery plan seeks to reduce the number of predators to a healthy number for both the predators and the caribou herds. Predator management is why Alaska's herds are stable. With a little less interference from animal rights groups, our herds could be growing.

Carrying capacity (the amount of food available) of an area plays a role when the numbers get too high, but the biggest factor found is predation. Wolves and bears are the main reason for sudden drops in caribou numbers.

A study of the mortality rate of some herds put the take by predators at more than 80 percent. Meanwhile, the take by humans is 2 percent.

Hunting by humans has little effect on caribou numbers. We are feeding the predators.

Meanwhile, on the Discovery Channel, I have seen programs about wolf reintroduction efforts in Europe and Siberia. Then they blast Alaska for killing wolves.

Thanks to the Alaska biologists who have done their homework, the science is there and proven. Now it's time to get out of their way and let them do their jobs, so we can continue to have healthy herds of caribou in Alaska.

Caribou are needed for feeding the residents of Alaska.

Viewing caribou is a by-product of a successful management program.

Michelle A. Hunter, North Pole


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