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Field Protocols

As of March 2009, CARMA has develop two manuals with associated protocols to allow researchers and managers to monitor their herds and be able to compare their results with monitoring data from other herds. The body condition manual explains the important indicators to collect when handling  a caribou or reindeer while the demographic manual outlines the standard methods of monitoring populations and how to report the findings in a consistent statistical manner.




CARMA recognizes the need to produce a habitat manual as an aid to those measuring or monitoring Rangifer habitats. We anticipate that this manual will outline attributes of habitat that are important to Rangifer and propose a standardized approach to measure these attributes.

This manual is anticipated to be completed prior to the CARMA 6 meeting in December 2009.




The CARMA Network is acting as a forum for documenting and assembling indicators to monitor caribou and their environment. CARMA is taking the lead to describe monitoring indicators in a manual that also includes standardized protocols from previous studies on Rangifer and other cervids and newly developed protocols relevant to community and hunter evaluation. The manual and protocols will ensure that we are collecting and managing data in a comparable way. The target audience for the manual is technical staff (biologists, wildlife technicians, fish and wildlife officers) and researchers that are affiliated with the CARMA  Network. The standardized monitoring data will be used to report on the status and trends in barren-ground caribou (wild reindeer and caribou) in the circumpolar regions.


This manual describes monitoring at the scale of the individual caribou and is focused on health and physical condition. Although information is collected at one scale, it can be integrated and interpreted at another scale. For example, hunters observe how fat individual caribou are, and the information from hunters in all communities is compiled to rate the body condition (based on fat) of the herd in that particular year.


These standards will be periodically updated.


Rangifer body condition manual (Download PDF)


Reference list - body condition (Download - Word format)


The actual field protocols are presented at two levels. Level 1 is the simplest approach to monitoring, methods that can be performed by hunters after minimal training. Level 2 protocols are more intensive monitoring and require trained staff to collect and document the health and condition of individual caribou.


Level 1 Protocols (Download PDF)

Level 2 Protocols (Download PDF)




Monitoring demographic indicators is a large part of wildlife management, which means that there is experience and knowledge for other members of the deer family besides caribou. The indicators typically monitored are abundance, fecundity, mortality, recruitment, sex ratio, emigration and immigration. We recognize that agencies have historically taken different approaches for monitoring caribou herds in order to operate within constraints imposed by budgets, staffing, weather, day length, aircraft availability and remoteness of the caribou. 

This manual offers an overview of monitoring methods applied to migratory tundra caribou. The protocols associated with this manual give details on how to report on the monitoring of demographic indices which differs from the approach used in the CARMA health and condition manual and protocols. In that manual, we describe the standardized measurements required to ensure that the same indicators are measured in the same way to minimize variation in the data (essentially Standard Operating Procedures). However for demographic indices, rather than specifying which method is to be applied, CARMA requests details about the methods used for the different herds or different regions, and rather than raw data ( such as transect counts), mean values of indices and estimates of precision are preferred. In the protocols, drop-down menus and column headings list the information required and the body of the protocols contains an explanation of the reporting requirements. In recognition of how busy field biologists tend to be, we have included some spreadsheet routines to facilitate calculating variance for sex and age ratios and rates of change. 


Download the demography manual (PDF)


Reference list - demography (Word)


Within the manual we describe 3 spreadsheet tools:

1. Determining the precision of composition estimates (Excel)
2. Measuring Rates of Change (Excel)
3. Detecting Numerical Changes from Subsequent Aerial Surveys (excel)