The Fortymile Caribou Herd (FCH) is the most prominent caribou herd in interior Alaska. A large portion of the FCH calving and summer range lies beneath heavily used Military Operations Areas (MOA) that are important for flight training. We observed the behavior of Grant's cow caribou (Rangifer tarandus granti) and their calves before, during, and immediately following low-level military jet overflights. We also monitored movements of radiocollared cow caribou and survival of their calves. We conducted fieldwork from mid May through early June 2002. We concluded that military jet overflights did not cause deaths of caribou calves in the FCH during the calving period nor result in increased movements of cow–calf pairs over the 24-hour period following exposure to overflights. Short-term responses to overflights were generally mild in comparison to caribou reactions to predators or perceived predators. Caribou responses to overflights were variable, but responses were generally greater as slant distances decreased and jet speeds increased. A-10 jets caused less reaction than F-15s and F-16s. Although we found that short-term reactions of caribou to jet overflights were mild, we advise against assuming there are no long-term effects on calving caribou from jet overflights.
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Vol. 69 • No. 3