Monitoring the Teshekpuk Caribou Herd

Principal Investigator:  Brian Person, Ph.D.
Collaborators:  ADFG, BLM
Funding: Alaska Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development; BLM

Summary: At least 5 North Slope villages hunt caribou (Rangifer tarandus) from the Teshekpuk Herd.  Understanding the movements and distribution of this herd is important if we are  to determine if oil and gas exploration and development will impact caribou and eventually how to mitigate potential impacts. The use of satellite transmitters provides a valuable tool for determining distribution and movements.

Between the years of 1990 and 2007, 102 satellite collars and 33 GPS collars were placed on caribou from the Teshekpuk Caribou Herd (TCH).  Sixteen bulls and 66 cows were collared.  This herd is an important subsistence resource to residents of the North Slope, especially in Barrow, Atqasuk, Wainwright and Nuiqsut, with harvest levels ranging between 5-10%. The TCH calving area is mainly east and north of Teshekpuk Lake and their range has little infrastructure and has little exposure to exploration and development.  This movement data will help us to better understand the seasonal movements and distribution of the herd before and after oil and gas development.

For comparison, the Central Arctic Herd (CAH) is also an important subsistence resource, especially for the villages of Anaktuvuk Pass and Nuiqsut.  This herd experiences harvest levels of between 3-5% and there is much infrastructure within the herd’s range. This herd is being monitored by the ADF&G.

2017 Teshekpuk Herd Range Maps: These maps were made by ABR, Inc. using data from the ADF&G, North Slope Borough, US BLM, and Concoco Phillips Alaska.

Summer 2013 Update: Brian Person worked with Lincoln Parrett of ADF&G and deployed 41 GPS, satellite, and conventional collars on Teshekpuk caribou to monitor the herds’ distribution and health. Near Inigok in late June, caribou were captured with a hand-held net gun. Currently, the herd is distributed in 3 groups: one near Wainwright, one near Fish/Judy Creeks, and one near Anaktuvuk Pass. It is likely they will maintain this distribution throughout the winter. See satellite collar maps for distributions.

Migration Animations

Annual migration of caribou herds in North America, including the four herds on the North Slope of Alaska. Click here to see a 1 ½  minute animation of the migration off all herds across northern Alaska and Canada from January 1st to December 31st for the year 2005.

Annual migration of Teshekpuk Caribou Herd using satellite tag locations from 1990-2005. Produced by Alex Prichard, ABR, Inc., Fairbanks, Alaska.  Click here to see a 2-minute animation of the migration of the Teshekpuk Herd in Alaska from January 1st to December 31st for those years.

TCH poster

Publications and presentations for more information on research on Teshekpuk caribou herd movements:

Prichard, A.K., G.C. Carroll, J.C. George, S.M. Murphy, M.D. Smith, R.S. Suydam and D.A. Yokel. 2001.  Use of Satellite Telemetry Data, GIS, and html to Create an Educational Display of Caribou Movements.  Poster presentation.

Carroll, G.M., L.S. Parrett, J.C. George, and  D.A. Yokel. 2004. Calving distribution of the Teshekpuk caribou herd, 1994-2003. Rangifer, Special Issue 16:27-35.

Parrett, L., B. Griffith, G. Carroll, C. George and R. Suydam. 2004. Calving and post-calving habitat selection by the Teshekpuk caribou herd. Poster presentation.

Person, B.T., Prichard, A.K., Carroll, G.M., Yokel, D.A., Suydam, R.S., and George, J.C. 2007. Distribution and movements of the Teshekpuk caribou herd 1990-2005: Prior to Oil and Gas Development. Arctic 60:238-250.

Yokel, D., et al. 2008. Teshekpuk caribou herd movement through narrow land corridors around Teshekpuk Lake, Alaska. Alaska Park Science, 8(2):64-67.

TCH Meeting Poster

Banner photo credit: Brian Person