The Caribou, also called caribou in North America, is a species of large deer with sub-arctic, arctic, tundra and mountain range distribution, resident mostly in central and southern Canada, Alaska, northern United States, and sled dog populations in the far south west. This includes both migratory and sedentary populations. The animals have thick fur, weigh up to seventy pounds, and have sharp ears, short tailed horns, powerful shoulders, and short curved claws. Their body shape is that of a large deer, with long slender legs and wide shoulders. Males are slightly larger than females, weighing up to thirteen pounds and having darker hair.
Mother Nature seems to favor the survival of this animal, particularly during the winter months. It hibernates through the winter months, leaving its young on ice floes or waiting for snow to melt from the rocky ground, where it is sheltered from the bitter cold by large clumps of fir trees. In early spring, the mother returns to the maternity grounds, where she lays down plenty of calves. The young stay in seclusion until the snow melts off, when they are able to follow their mother’s tracks and get to the open pasture where they gain independence.
The young grow up into moose or elk and lead lives of ease and comfort. Their daily activities include eating, drinking, grooming, and sleeping. A Caribou’s diet consists mainly of grasses, seeds, roots, nuts, small twigs, berries, algae, muck, insects, carpenter ants, and grasshoppers. Their body is covered with hair, which grows in abundance. They can move very quickly on the open prairie, for their large bodies allow them to speedily scamper from one place to another. During the fall mating season, the mother gives birth to up to eight calves, who are nourished by her milk for up to nine months.
A Caribou’s young have to stay outside their mother’s pouches until they are old enough to take care of themselves. This is because some Caribou species prey on young Caribou cubs. This causes the young to stay away from their mother and become solitary animals. The young stay out of harm’s way, but when necessary, they rush to help their mother with feeding, cleaning and watering. Some species of Caribou even carry their young in sewn-on pouch like coverings called ‘pouches,’ which are used when they need to flee from threatening animals or humans.
The term” Caribou” is derived from the Canadian term “Caribou cervifugus,” which means “camel-riding cat.” These animals have beautiful hair, which is usually black with grey. Their legs are longer than other Caribou species, which gives them the appearance of a stag or male deer. Males of some Caribou species grow long antlers which can weigh up to 100 pounds.
Unlike other large herbivores, the main food source for Caribou is the vegetation that grows on their snow-covered tundra; this includes plants such as fir, spruce, reed, pine, cedar, and spruce tree. Other vegetation that the animals may eat includes lichens, grasses, fungi, aphids, mites, ticks, grasshoppers, bees, wasps, bees, and even birds. Caribou usually catch and eat small animals, such as rodents, insects, birds, and sometimes even fish. Caribou usually give birth to live babies that are covered with white fur.