FIRE-MOOSE-CARIBOU INTERRELATIONSHIPS: A REVIEW AND ASSESSMENT
Extirpation of caribou from the Kenai Peninsula in the early 1900’s and the subsequent increase in moose numbers is frequently cited as a classic example of a faunal change that resulted from fire-initiated plant succession. A similar sequence has been observed recurrently throughout northern North America and is frequently cited as a casual relationship. Unfortunately, acceptance of this generalization resulted in the erroneous conclusion that the widespread burning of forests that accompanied settlement destroyed caribou winter range and precipitated the Nearctic decline of caribou. this attitude has precluded recognition of other factors that are limiting caribou and has created the belief that creating or increasing moose habitat by burning will automatically eliminate or displace caribou. We believe that the observed relationships were not necessarily casual, that factors other than fire were most likely responsible for past declines of caribou, and that creating or enhancing moose habitat by burning is not necessarily detrimental to caribou.
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