Herd Update: March 2003

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Updated March 20, 2003

     March 2003 Porcupine Caribou Fieldwork
       Winter Satellite Locations
       Telemetry relocation
       Capture locations
       Meet our newest caribou

       Caribou data
       Composition count data

Winter satellite collar locations

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Movements of Satellite collared cow caribou during winter months, December 1, 2002 to March 17, 2003
If you have been following the movements of the satellite collared Porcupine Caribou Herd cows this winter, you may have noticed that some of the collared cows began moving slowly north in mid winter. Beginning in late January, caribou left wintering grounds in the southern portion of the range in the Blackstone Uplands / Hart River basin and moved north about 150 miles to the Whitefish Lakes area between Old Crow and Fort McPherson.

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Telemetry relocations

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Locations of radio and satellite collared caribou, March 6 to 8, 2003
Between March 6th and 8th, Tara Wertz and Dave Sowards with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Arctic National Wildlife Refuge) conducted telemetry flights and found 63 of our radio collared caribou. Of these, 50 caribou or 80% of the collared animals were north of the Peel River along the Whitestone, Miner, Fishing Branch and Porcupine rivers.

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Capture locations

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Locations of caribou captured March 7 to 13 for deployment of radio and satellite collars
Between March 7 and 13, YTG staff Dorothy Cooley, Torrie Hunter and Martin Kienzler captured 21 caribou for deployment of conventional collars. Ten conventional collars were placed on bulls, nine were fitted on 9-month-old females (short yearlings) and 2 were placed on adult females. Yearling females were collared to start gathering information on the survival of calves between March and June/July of their first year. Bulls and non-pregnant cows are often in the foothills and mountains during the period of post calving aggregation in early July. The collars on bulls will help researchers find these bull groups during the next census which is scheduled for July 2003.
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Collared Bull    Collared Cow-calf

This year we had 6 new satellite collars to deploy. 5 of these collars were provided by the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, while the 6th was bought by Parks Canada, Inuvik (Western Arctic Field Unit). We had intended on recollaring 3 of the current satellite cows this spring to replace their collars whose batteries are due to die. Lupine and Donner were found to be in very good shape, and were refitted with new collars. After recapturing Cupid we found that she had some abrasions on her neck from the previous collar, but was otherwise in good condition, and was still being followed by her calf from last year. However, considering the abrasions and because Cupid is getting to be an older caribou, we treated Cupids neck with antibiotic and released her uncollared.
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Donner          Lupine

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Meet our newest caribou

This left us 4 satellite collars which were deployed on new cow caribou. All of the caribou that were selected were young and in very good condition. The collars were spread out in relation to caribou distribution (refer to map above). This year, the caribou received names from a few different sources.

Click on the photo below to see "Tundra" after her release
As has been tradition since 2000, the previous years' Johnny Charlie Scholarship recipient and assistant wildlife technician in the Dawson YTG Environment office has been given the chance to come up with a name for new satellite collared caribou. Darcie Matthiessen, who worked with Dawson Regional Biologist Dorothy Cooley during the summer of 2002 has named this caribou "Tundra."


Two caribou have been named by students involved with Journey North. Journey North is an award-winning, educational non-profit Web program that engages school-aged children in the study of migration and seasonal change. In this program, school children around North America track the movements of a dozen different migratory species, including our satellite collared Porcupine Caribou. This year, we offered Journey North a naming contest for the students. There were a great many worthy enteries in this contest, which made selection of the caribou names extremely difficult for the judges. Click here to read more about the caribou naming contest, and how the names were chosen.

The names selected through this process were "Helen" and "Carmen". Each was thought to represent characters from history and culture that seemed perfect for satellite-collared research animals. Both of these names were submitted by Alexander, a student at Calvert Homeschool, Fernandina Beach, FL. Congratulations, Alexander!


As Parks Canada, Inuvik provided the funds for the 4th satellite collar, we also offered them the chance to hold a naming contest in their community. Their naming contest was held in late March during a career fair in Inuvik. As with the Journey North contest, the students in Inuvik came up with many descriptive and clever submissions. The one eventually chosen by the judges was "Arnaq", which means "girl" in the Inuvialuktun language. This name is pronounced "ahg naq", as the "r" is silent.

For more information on the history of the caribou involved in this program, click here.
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Caribou data

Measurements taken from captured caribou
When we capture caribou, we do more than fit them with collars for tracking. We also record whether or not they are still accompanied by a calf, how old they are, collect measurements on the body size and condition of the animal, and collect blood samples for contaminants analysis, DNA testing, and with the cows, to see if they are pregnant. This data is collected from all caribou to compare body size and health between herds. The image on the right shows where these measurements are taken from.

Below is a table with some of the data we collected from the caribou we collared this spring. Note that all length measurements are in centimeters, and weight of the caribou is recorded in kilograms.

In the field when handling live animals, we estimate age by looking at the wear on their teeth. We will be providing more information on aging of captured caribou in a future update.

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Composition count data

During March fieldwork we also conduct composition counts to get an estimate of overwinter survival of calves. Generally we classify caribou as: Cows, Calves, Mature bulls, and Immature bulls. Mature bulls are identified as those males that have lost their antlers by March, whereas immature bulls still have their antlers. Although we record the number of bulls that we find, we do not use this information because by spring the bulls and cows have already begun to separate. This year we found 37.9 calves per 100 cows, which is slightly above the 10 year average of 36.5 per 100.

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If you have any questions, please contact:
Dorothy Cooley or Martin Kienzler
Regional Management
Box 600
Dawson City, YT
Y0B 1G0
Phone (867) 993 ­ 6461
Fax (867) 993 ­ 6548
Email dorothy.cooley@gov.yk.ca or martin.kienzler@gov.yk.ca

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