Caribou, military jets and noise: The interplay of behavioural ecology and evolutionary psychology


  • Fred H. Harrington



caribou, military jets, noise, jet aircraft, movements, population dynamics, predation, activity budgets, calf survival, disturbance, predation risk, Rangifer tarandus


Whether a human activity is likely to have a negative impact on a species depends largely on how stimuli from that activity are interpreted and acted upon by individuals, within the context of their behavioural ecology. The interpretations and decisions made by individuals in response to these stimuli are largely governed by neural systems evolved by the species as adaptations to common and recurrent selective pressures. In this paper I will review previous findings concerning the responses of caribou to overflights by military jet aircraft in Labrador/Quebec and Alaska, casting them in an evolutionary psychological framework. One prediction from such an exercise is that identical stimuli (noise from jet overflights) that elicit similar responses (short-distance avoidance) can have quite different population consequences for sedentary (woodland) and migratory (barren-ground) ecotypes. For a female woodland caribou, which shares her calving range with a resident predator population, an increase in movements following disturbance may significantly increase her calf's exposure to predators. Similar movements by a female barren-ground caribou, which has fewer predators to contend with, may have only a negligible impact on her calf's predation risk. Thus woodland caribou may be more vulnerable to negative impacts of military jet noise during calving periods, dependent on predator density.

Author Biography

Fred H. Harrington

Secretary-general for Nordic Council for Reindeer Husbandry Research (NOR)




How to Cite

Harrington, F. H. (2003). Caribou, military jets and noise: The interplay of behavioural ecology and evolutionary psychology. Rangifer, 23(5), 73–80.