Caribou recovery and coexistence with introduced feral reindeer on the Nuussuaq Peninsula (70-71°N), West Greenland
AbstractThe small native caribou population (Rangifer tarandus groenlandicus) of Nuussuaq Peninsula was supplemented in 1968 with 10 semi-domestic reindeer (Rangifer tarandus tarandus). Hunting was prohibited in the early 1990s, but resumed with a quota of 100 animals in 1996 after the population was estimated to be around 400. Despite local criticism that herd size had increased, managers kept the estimate unchanged and permitted similar quotas for the next 5 years. To ascertain current status of the population, a late winter ground survey for minimum count, recruitment and distribution was done in April 2002 employing local hunters. Data collected included group size, location and animal sex/age. Only two age classes were used; calf (<1 year) and "adult" (>1 year). The 2002 ground survey observed 1164 individuals and a calf percentage of approximately 30%. The bull to cow ratio was 0.32. This data did not allow a calculation of population size, because areas where maximum animal numbers were expected were preferentially sampled. Spatial segregation of these two subspecies is suggested, given the observed and unexpected dissimilar behavior, pheno-type and spatial distribution. If true, then by 2002 feral reindeer had established a successful population, while native caribou had recovered to number several hundred. Genetic sampling is necessary to examine this hypothesis. At current late winter recruitment rates animal density could increase rapidly making both range expansion and genetic mixing likely in future. Since the total non-ice covered area available is about 6000 km2, greater caribou/reindeer densities may not be compatible with sustainable range use. Harvest quotas were increased in 2002 and 2003, and may reduce densities and preserve caribou range for the future.
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