Posted on February 11, 2011 under General
Winter Rains and Caribou

By Michael Wald Co-Owner and Guide

In late November, Alaska was pounded by a memorable storm. A great warm wave of rain swept north across the interior and all the way to the Arctic Coast. Once the rain passed, the temperature returned to a more seasonable -20 F, and in Fairbanks the rain on the cold roads made it possible to ice-skate right down the middle of the highway. School was canceled and nearly everyone was inconvenienced in some way. But how about up in the Brooks Range? I have been wondering how all that rain will affect the tundra. Did all the voles get soaked to the skin in the downpour and then freeze like so many vole-sickles? Did the rain create a crust of ice too thick for caribou or musk ox to dig through in search of forage? In 2005 we saw significant declines in musk ox in the Arctic Refuge and we are only now starting to see them again on trips like the Canning River. Many assume that musk ox declined because of a big icy storm in October of 2004. Will we see large die-offs of caribou this spring? Alaska Dispatch has an article about these very questions?

Right now all I can do is speculate. I am eager for our April trip to the Brooks Range to see for myself how this remarkable winter has etched itself into the landscape.