St. Matthew Island

st matthew island

St. Matthew Island is a remote island in the Bering Sea in Alaska. The island has a land area of 138 sq mi, making it the 43rd largest island in the United States. In 1944, 29 reindeer were introduced to the island by the United States Coast Guard to provide an emergency food source. The coast guard abandoned the island a few years later, leaving the reindeer. Subsequently, the reindeer population rose to about 6,000 by 1963 and then died off in the next two years to 43 animals.

A scientific study attributed the population crash to the limited food supply in interaction with climatic factors (the winter of 1963-64 was exceptionally severe in the region). By the 1980s, the reindeer population had completely died out. American ecologist, Garrett Hardin cited the ‘natural experiment’ of St. Matthew Island of the reindeer population explosion and collapse as a paradigmatic example of the consequences of overpopulation.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.