Officials at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game report a sharp drop in the number of caribou across the state’s Central Arctic region.
Herds of the grazing animals peaked in numbers during 2010 at about 70,000, but have plunged to only 22,000 this year. Caribou herds in the Western Arctic region have also thinned significantly since 2003.
The late arrival of spring in 2013 was particularly deadly to the herds as caribou were forced to trudge through snow later than usual at a time of the year when their bodies are stressed and in urgent need of nutrition.
Game officials say they don’t believe hunting or predators are significant factors in the decline.