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1 December 2004 Long-term Interactions between Migratory Caribou, Wildfires and Nunavik Hunters Inferred from Tree Rings
Serge Payette, Stéphane Boudreau, Claude Morneau, Nadia Pitre
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Barren-ground caribou (Rangifer tarandus) herds in North America may reach considerable size and undertake large-scale seasonal migrations from the Arctic tundra to the boreal forest. To test the caribou decline hypothesis associated with native harvesting and fire, we have documented the long-term trends of caribou activity based on a novel approach which uses tree-ring dated trampling scars produced by caribou hooves in the extensive trails distributed over the summer and winter ranges of the Rivièreaux-Feuilles herd (RAF herd, east of Hudson Bay in northern Quebec). The age structure data of trampling scars from lichen woodlands distributed over the entire RAF range confirmed the overall trends of caribou activity from the late 1700s to present time. Over the last 200 years, the RAF herd has undergone two highs in the late 1700s and 1900s separated by a moderate activity pattern in the late 1800s. Native harvesting was possibly involved in the early 1900s decline, although at a moderate level. The reduced magnitude of caribou activity during this period has not modified the natural cycle of highs and lows, which suggests that other demographic factors were controlling the changing caribou abundance. Our data also show that only exceptionally large fires may have a minor, short-lived impact on caribou migrations but not on caribou numbers.

Serge Payette, Stéphane Boudreau, Claude Morneau, and Nadia Pitre "Long-term Interactions between Migratory Caribou, Wildfires and Nunavik Hunters Inferred from Tree Rings," AMBIO: A Journal of the Human Environment 33(8), 482-486, (1 December 2004).
Accepted: 1 January 2004; Published: 1 December 2004

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