GCI funds research to gauge Interior Alaska caribou numbers

August 24, 2017

GCI, ADF&G partnership enables monitoring of remote caribou herds

ANCHORAGE, Alaska – Rarely-monitored caribou herds in remote areas of the state’s interior are receiving additional attention from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, courtesy of a generous partnership between the agency and GCI.

GCI is in the midst of a five-year agreement to contribute $5,000 each year to ADF&G, enabling the department to charter research flights vital to monitoring herds near Melozitna and Gold Mountain – just north of the Yukon River near the community of Ruby – and ensure the herds’ vitality and long-term subsistence viability.

“GCI has a deep connection to Alaska and we are always looking to support its residents, wildlife and wildlife management” said Bob Walsh, GCI’s director of Rural Broadband Development. “We are proud to partner with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game to help monitor the state’s resources.”

The contributions, funded through GCI’s TERRA project, began in 2015 and run through 2019.

Research flights aim to gauge the size and sustainability of the Galena Mountain, Wolf Mountain, Ray Mountain and Hodzana Hills herds. These smaller herds are found in remote locations and are difficult to reach by hunters, which makes them a low priority for monitoring by ADF&G.

“Because these herds are a low priority, we didn’t have funding to regularly monitor them. Any monitoring we did before partnering with GCI had to be opportunistic,” said Glenn Stout, Galena Area biologist for ADF&G. “The small interior herds are unique because they don’t follow the norm. They are calving high up in the hills and they tend not to be migratory. They have preferred areas for different parts of their life history. It’s important to know if the populations can support harvest.”

The additional funding for aerial monitoring of caribou in these remote areas has allowed ADF&G to gain valuable knowledge about these herds.

The Galena Mountain herd numbers around 100 animals, with survival rates of calves limiting the herd’s growth.

While the Wolf Mountain herd birthed 115 calves in 2017 – the highest since 1994 – the herd still only stands around 450 caribou.

The Ray Mountain and Hodzana herds declined, both standing approximately 800 animals strong, and are down from as many as 1,500 caribou at each herd’s peak.

As a result of this newly-gained information, ADF&G determined these herds cannot support the prescribed harvest rates previously believed to be sustainable.

The department will continue to closely monitor these herds and decide sustainable harvest levels for  locals.

About GCI

GCI delivers communication and technology services in the consumer and business markets. Headquartered in Alaska with additional locations in the U.S., GCI has delivered services for more than 35 years to some of the most remote communities and in some of the most challenging conditions in North America. Learn more about GCI at http://www.gci.com

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