ANCHORAGE — A photo census indicates a caribou herd shared by Alaska and northwest Canada has grown significantly.
The Alaska Department of Fish says the Porcupine Caribou Herd has grown to an estimated 169,000 animals.
The herd peaked in 1989 at 178,000 caribou. Four surveys between 1992 and 2001 documented a decline to 123,000 caribou. State wildlife officials say the reason for the decline among adult animals could not be attributed to one cause.
The herd is a crucial source of food for several rural communities on both sides of the border.
The animals traditionally bear calves on the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and the herd also figures into discussions into whether the area should be opened to petroleum drilling.