Caribou are being encountered more frequently in the Kenai area as they slowly make their way from their summer range off Marathon Road to their winter range near Brown's Lake.
"It's really common to see them this time of year," said Alaska Department of Fish and Game area manager Jeff Selin-ger.
Constantly moving and shifting, it is difficult to exactly predict the caribou's migration movements from day to day, but they seem to show up in some places more frequently than others.
Selinger said the areas the caribou seem to turn up regularly include the Kenai flats area off Bridge Access Road; off Kali-fornsky Beach Road between Bridge Access and Cannery roads; and off the Kenai Spur Highway between Kenai and Soldotna.
The animals that are commonly seen around the Kenai area are known as the Kenai Lowlands herd, a group 120 to 130 animals strong. According to Selinger, this is a healthy, reasonably stable herd that contains some of the bigger caribou on the peninsula. The caribou that make up the Kenai Lowlands herd are products of the 1964-1965 caribou reintroduction efforts.
Fish and Game has some recommendations for keeping both people and animals safe this time of year when sighting caribou can be almost a daily occurrence.
"Don't approach them," Selin-ger said. "It's OK to watch them and enjoy them, but give them plenty of space."
Selinger said it's common for people to pull over to take pictures when seeing them on the side of the road, but caution should be exercised when doing so.
Wildlife watchers shouldn't lock up their brakes when seeing caribou on the side of the road, rather they should slow down, signal and then pull all the way over. People also should be cautious when getting in and out of the car.
"People shouldn't approach them when taking pictures," Selinger said.
He said this could cause stress to the animals at a time of year when they need to concentrate on feeding on sedge and willow to put on weight needed for winter survival.
Approaching caribou also can be dangerous, since they could flee into the road to get away potentially causing an accident. Also, caribou may defend themselves or other herd members, or show increased aggression as the rut approaches.
People also should never try to feed the animals.
Caribou are the most abundant big game animal in Alaska, and although not the largest member of the deer family a title reserved for moose they are the only deer in which both males and females carry antlers.
However, despite their large sizes and impressive racks, Selinger pointed out that the Kenai Lowlands herd is not to be hunted except when allowed by the occasional permit hunt when their numbers deem it necessary.
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