Sunday, May 11, 2008

Global warming tied to Arctic caribou decline

EDMONTON -- In the summer of 1996, biologist Frank Miller was flying along the coast of Bathurst Island searching for Peary caribou, found only in the High Arctic of Canada, when he spied a dark spot on the sea ice.
Flying in for a look, he could see these animals were not the caribou he was looking for. They were muskoxen. The circle of animals didn't bolt. Miller got the pilot to land a few hundred metres away. Even as he approached on foot, the herd didn't flinch. As he moved closer, it dawned on him -- they were all dead. The animals were frozen stiff and leaning against each other like statues.
"It was one of the most strange and gruesome things I'd ever seen as a biologist," the Edmonton researcher recalls.
"They were probably on their last legs and starving when they headed out across the sea ice searching for better food conditions on another island."

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