Calving Success of Woodland Caribou Exposed to Low-Level Jet Fighter Overflights


  • Fred H. Harrington
  • Alasdair M. Veitch



Effects on woodland caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou) of low-level military jet training at Canadian Forces Base - Goose Bay (Labrador) were studied during the 1986-88 training seasons. Calf survival was periodically monitored during 1987 and 1988 in a sample of 15 females wearing satellite-tracked radiocollars. During 1987, each female's exposure to low-level overflights was experimentally manipulated on a daily basis. In 1988, daily exposure was determined by analyzing jet flight tracks following the low-level flying season. Calf survival was monitored by survey flights every 3-4 weeks. A calf survival index, the number of survey periods (maximum = 4) that a cow was accompanied by a calf, was negatively correlated with the female's exposure to low-level jet overflights during the calving and immediate post-calving period and again during the period of insect harassment during summer. No significant relationship between calf survival and exposure to low-level flying was seen during the pre-calving period, during the late post-calving period prior to insect harassment, and during fall. In view of the continued depression of population growth in the woodland caribou population within the low-level training area, jets should avoid overflying woodland caribou calving range at least during the last week of May and the first three weeks of June.

Key words: caribou, Rangifer tarandus caribou, calf survival, low-level flying, jet aircraft, disturbance, Labrador