Standardized monitoring of Rangifer health during International Polar Year
Monitoring of individual animal health indices in wildlife populations can be a powerful tool for evaluation of population health, detecting changes, and informing management decisions. Standardized monitoring allows robust comparisons within and across populations, and over time and vast geographic regions. As an International Polar Year Initiative, the CircumArctic Rangifer Monitoring and Assessment network established field protocols for standardized monitoring of caribou and reindeer (Rangifer tarandus) health, which included body condition, contaminants, and pathogen exposure and abundance. To facilitate use of the protocols, training sessions were held, additional resources were developed, and language was translated where needed. From March 2007 to September 2010, at least 1206 animals from 16 circumpolar herds were sampled in the field using the protocols. Four main levels of sampling were done and ranged from basic to comprehensive sampling. Possible sources of sampling error were noted by network members early in the process and protocols were modified or supplemented with additional visual resources to improve clarity when needed. This is the first time that such broad and comprehensive circumpolar sampling of migratory caribou and wild reindeer, using standardized protocols covering both body condition and parasite disease status, has been done.
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