Argument: ANWR oil drilling would harm ANWR caribou

Issue Report: Oil Drilling in Arctic Wildlife Refuge


  • Natural Resource Defense Council 3/10/05 – “Oil development would threaten caribou survival: Every year, this vast herd of caribou travels hundreds of miles from Canada’s Porcupine River region to the coastal plain, where females give birth in the spring. The plant growth on the plain at that time of year nourishes pregnant and nursing caribou, and cooling breezes along the coast help disperse insects that can drain more than a quart of blood a week from the calves and their parents. These unique conditions — and the fact that there are fewer predators in the coastal plain — offer newborn caribou a better chance of surviving their vulnerable first few weeks of life. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have concluded that oil development in the coastal plain could destroy this delicate balance, prompting a major decline or displacement of the Porcupine caribou. Industrial facilities, such as roads and pipelines, would force pregnant caribou and nursing mothers to abandon their preferred habitat. The only places left for the herd to go have substantially more predators, less high-quality forage, and significantly less relief from mosquitoes. According to a recent U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) study, even a small reduction in the number of surviving calves — less than 5 percent in a single year — could reduce the size of the herd…Alaska’s Department of Fish and Game reports that pregnant caribou have dramatically shifted away from the oil fields, calving instead where there are no industrial disturbances. Studies also show that as roads and pipelines grew closer together in the Central Arctic’s Kuparuk oilfields, concentrated calving disappeared from this area and shifted to the south.

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