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Decline of Caribou in North America Following Settlement

Arthur T. Bergerud
The Journal of Wildlife Management
Vol. 38, No. 4 (Oct., 1974), pp. 757-770
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the Wildlife Society
DOI: 10.2307/3800042
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3800042
Page Count: 14
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Decline of Caribou in North America Following Settlement
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Abstract

The numbers of caribou (Rangifer tarandus) in North America generally declined in the 1800s and early 1900s. Four hypotheses are discussed relative to this decline: (I) numbers decreased because of a shortage of lichen supplies caused by the destruction of lichen pastures by fire and logging; (II) population declined because of increased hunting mortality, augmented by increased natural predation of some herds by wolves (Canis lupus); (III) a combination of hypotheses I and II above; and (IV) caribou declined in Alaska because of increased movement to marginal habitats with high numbers. This review supports hypothesis II--that numbers declined because of increased hunting mortality and natural predation of some herds, and argues that the range-destruction hypothesis has not been shown to be either a necessary or sufficient cause to explain the decline.

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