Responses of West Greenland caribou to the approach of humans on foot

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Aastrup, Peter (2000)

Responses to the approach of a human were studied in two caribou populations (Akia and Isortoq) in West Greenland during calving, summer and after the hunt in 1997–98. For each group encountered the distance between the approaching person and the caribou at their first sign of fright (“fright threshold distance”), the distance between the person and the caribou when they began to move away (“flight threshold distance”), and the distance the caribou ran (“run distance”) were measured with a laser range finder. Generally, groups of caribou had longer fright threshold, flight threshold and run distances, indicating more vigilance than single individuals. Groups with calves were more vigilant than female and male groups, while there was no difference between female and male groups. This pattern was most clear in the Akia population. The frequency of curiosity behaviour indicated that the Akia caribou were less vigilant than the Isortoq caribou after the hunting, while there was no locational difference during the other seasons. Caribou in Akia were most vigilant during calving, whereas in the Isortoq population the highest vigilance was found after hunting. Hunting seemed to have heightened awareness in the Isortoq population. It is concluded that flight and fright reactions of Greenland caribou are similar to those found among other caribou populations, and that precautions should be taken to minimize disturbing caribou during calving.
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