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Fortymile Caribou Provide Viewing Opportunities for Steese Highway Travelers

Proceed with caution, have camera ready


Caribou, including a bull collared for research purposes, cross the Steese Highway. A large number of Fortymile herd caribou are currently providing viewing opportunities for motorists traveling north of Fairbanks.

Photo ©Mike Taras, ADF&G

FAIRBANKS, Alaska – If you’re driving the Steese Highway northeast of Fairbanks any time soon, proceed with caution and have your camera ready. A large portion of the Fortymile caribou herd has moved into the area and is providing prime viewing and photography opportunities.


“Some of the best viewing is in the alpine areas between Twelvemile Summit (Mile 85.5) and the Northeast side of Eagle Summit (Mile 107),” says Mike Taras, an education associate with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Fairbanks.


Scan the ridges and hillsides to find caribou travelling and feeding, Taras suggests. But don’t forget to keep a sharp eye on the road.


“The caribou are crossing the highway, so stay alert and watch your speed. Also, remember that you are on a highway; pull off in safe areas to view the animals.”


The area is snow-covered and remote with limited facilities. Motorists traveling the Steese should come prepared for challenging driving conditions and sudden weather changes.


(Photo ©John Wyman, ADF&G)

These caribou bulls were photographed on a ridge close to the Steese Highway north of Fairbanks. Wildlife viewers and photographers should come prepared for challenging driving conditions and sudden weather changes.


Caribou are nomadic and may come and go quickly. Biologists expect viewing to remain good for at least the next several days. State caribou hunting seasons between Fairbanks and Circle are closed until December 1. Caribou hunting on federal lands opens to federally qualified subsistence hunters on November 1.


At its peak in the early 1920s, the Fortymile caribou herd numbered about 260,000 animals and ranged from Whitehorse, Yukon, to the White Mountains north of Fairbanks. The herd declined to 6,500 animals by 1973, but has since rebounded and currently numbers in excess of 51,000.


For more information about the Fortymile Caribou herd and its status, see the latest version of “The Comeback Trail – News of the Fortymile Caribou Herd” issued in August.


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