Caribou - Calgary Zoo - Photo Copyright Ward Cameron 2003 - Click to view a larger image Caribou - Calgary Zoo - Photo Copyright Ward Cameron 2003 - Click to view a larger image Caribou - Calgary Zoo - Photo Copyright Ward Cameron 2003 - Click to view a larger image Caribou/Reindeer - Photo Copyright Ward Cameron 2003 - Click to view a larger image 
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Caribou/Reindeer
Rangifer tarandus

Hoofed Animals
Deer Family (Cervidae)

Measurement: Size: 190 cm/100 cm at the shoulder Weight: 120-180 kg (rarely over 200 kg)

Description: Caribou are often mistaken for elk at first glance, but upon closer observation are quite different in appearance. Their body shape is more compact than elk, with shorter legs, and smaller ears. In size, they resemble a darker, more stalky mule deer. The nose comes to a blunt tip, often one of the easiest signs to distinguish it from elk while traveling in a rapidly moving vehicle.

If they have antlers, the differences between elk, deer and caribou are instantly visible. The antlers of caribou bucks (improperly called bulls), look like a combination between a moose and an elk. They have one tine growing forward towards the nose, often taking on a broad, palmate nature typical of moose antlers. The main branch grows towards the back of the body, with numerous side branches. Near the tips, the round profile of the antler flattens and widens.

In caribou, both the bucks and the does grow antlers. While the males grow through the summer and are lost after the completion of the fall rut, the females are out of phase with the males. Once the buck has impregnated the doe, he becomes irrelevant, and so by keeping antlers through the difficult winter, the females can out-compete the bucks for limited food supplies.

Range: The mountain caribou is a northern animal. It is rarely found south of the Columbia Icefields in Jasper National Park, but seems to be extending that limit slowly. Recent sightings have placed them as far south as Bow Summit in Banff National Park.

Diet: Mountain caribou rely on old growth forests for their survival, feeding on lichens like the ground growing Cladina spp. in summer, along with a variety of grasses, sedges and horsetails. In winter, they feed on tree-born lichens like Bryoria spp. along with twigs and buds.

Reproduction: The fall rut begins in mid-October and runs through November. As the bucks gather small harems, they will fight off challenges by rival bucks. Gestation is 215-240 days with the young born the following May.

Notes: Caribou are an animal in peril. With the increase in logging adjacent to protected areas, we are rapidly losing the old-growth forest upon which caribou rely for their survival. Support conservation plans to preserve remaining stands of old-growth forests in the Rocky Mountains.

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All Material Ward Cameron 2005

 

 

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