Skip to Main Content
U.S. Forest Service
Caring for the land and serving people

United States Department of Agriculture

Home > Search > Publication Information

  1. Share via EmailShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInShare on Twitter
    Dislike this pubLike this pub
    Author(s): Kumi Rattenbury; Knut Kielland; Greg Finstad; William Schneider
    Date: 2009
    Source: Polar Research. 28: 71-88
    Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)
    Station: Pacific Northwest Research Station
    PDF: View PDF  (2.77 MB)


    Nonclimate variables shape vulnerability and adaptive capacity to climate change. Here, we describe how recent environmental and socioeconomic developments have transformed reindeer herding and perceptions of weather on the Seward Peninsula, Alaska. The reindeer industry has shrunk considerably since the early 1990s, when the winter range of the Western Arctic Caribou Herd expanded, and over 17,000 reindeer mixed with migrating caribou and left the region. Socioeconomic and environmental repercussions make the continuation of herding tenuous, and erode the ability of herders to cope with weather variability, among other perturbations. We present a case study of one herder's annual cycle, and juxtapose physical drivers of herding activities, including weather-station and herder observations of local weather variability, with socioeconomic factors. There is an increased urgency to access and monitor reindeer with caribou present, but herding plans are constrained by lower economic returns and the need to spend more time in nonherding jobs. Although weather is a greater concern now for immediate herd access, standard weather data are largely irrelevant to the mechanics of herding, whereas variables pertaining to the timing of biotic events (e.g., synchrony of spring break-up and calving) and visibility are attributed to lost herding opportunities. Short-term responses to weather conditions stem from more long-term vulnerability associated with caribou presence, reduced herd size, difficulties affording snowmobile maintenance or crew assistance, and dwindling market opportunities. We emphasize the environmental and socioeconomic interactions that affect vulnerability and adaptive capacity for modern herding.

    Publication Notes

    • You may send email to to request a hard copy of this publication.
    • (Please specify exactly which publication you are requesting and your mailing address.)
    • We recommend that you also print this page and attach it to the printout of the article, to retain the full citation information.
    • This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.


    Rattenbury, K.; Kielland, K.; Finstad, G.; Schneider, W. 2009. A reindeer herder's perspective on caribou, weather and socio-economic change on the Seward Peninsula, Alaska. Polar Research. 28: 71-88.


    Google Scholar


    Alaska, climate change, Rangifer tarandus, reindeer, reindeer herding, weather

    Related Search

    XML: View XML
Show More
Show Fewer
Jump to Top of Page