This special edition of The Circle contains excellent articles on the science, environmental threats, herd management – or mismanagement – and conservation efforts for caribou and reindeer populations. But what I found to be missing was the sense of what it is like to experience these nomadic animals in the wild. For me, the impressions are humbling and unforgettable, writes Monte Hummel, President Emeritus of WWF Canada, and co-author with Dr. Justina C. Ray of Caribou and the North; A Shared Future, Dundurn Press, 2008.
From a cliff, I have observed some 10,000 animals attempting to cross an Arctic river in spring flood, being washed a kilometre or more downstream as they struggled to reach that far shore. Imagine the pandemonium – cows and calves calling for each other, little ones trying to keep up but often becoming separated, sometimes on opposite sides of the river. Some turned back midstream, while the bulls powered ahead – a successful passage always culminating with that triumphant shower of spray as they stopped to shake off after scrambling out of the current.
Another time I experienced an obviously large herd without ever seeing it, evidenced by the mats of caribou hair everywhere. Further proof of its passing was the muddy gravel churned into rubble by thousands of approaching and exiting hooves.
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