Central Arctic caribou herd numbers highest ever
Pat Valkenberg, a research coordinator with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, told PNA Dec. 20 that a recent count of the Central Arctic caribou herd shows herd numbers at their highest level ever.
“The herd is now at 27,128 animals,” Valkenberg said. That compares with 19,700 in 1997 and a previous high of 24,000 in 1992.
“We don’t really know why the herd has increased,” he said.
When asked whether Alaska’s caribou herd numbers are part of a natural fluctuating cycle, Valkenberg said it is one of the issues that caribou biologists periodically debate: “In Alaska, in North America, some of the herds do appear to go up and down — some on a 20 year cycle ... other herds fluctuate fairly erratically. Other herds, such as the Porcupine, have been remarkably stable,” Valkenberg said.
Caribou biologists agree that the fluctuations in herd numbers are at least partially weather-related, Valkenberg said. “And there’s no doubt that predation, especially wolf predation, plays a pretty big role. ...
Most of the Arctic herds have an effective way of beating predation. They calve up on the North Slope, away from where most wolves are.
“In general, caribou herds are still doing really well in Alaska. ... We still have about 1 million caribou here,” he said.
AOGCC schedules hearing on West Foreland well
The Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation has scheduled a public hearing Jan. 9 at 9 a.m. at its new offices at 333 West 7th Avenue, Suite 100 in Anchorage, regarding a Nov. 30 request from Forcenergy Inc. (now Forest Oil) to establish a permanent spacing exception for the 1 West Foreland well and terminate the company's escrow obligation, or revise the date by which the company shall deposit funds in the escrow account.
The company had applied to produce gas from the well, which is closer than 1,500 feet to a lease boundary. Forest owns both oil and gas leases, but the leases have different landowners and different royalty rates, with one lease managed by the state and one by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.