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Canada's Species   Mammals

Caribou or Reindeer

Rangifer tarandus

Photo:Canadian Museum of Nature
Caribou or Reindeer. Photo:Canadian Museum of Nature

The image of the caribou is one of a highly social, herding ungulate. Caribou herds and migrations are impressive to behold, and some have noted that there seems to be a magnetic force between individuals in a herd as they wend their way along established paths or bolt from an intruder. Barren-ground Caribou migrations can extend up to 1440 kilometres from the forested wintering grounds to the summer ranges on the tundra, while woodland caribou are somewhat less mobile. Several subspecies exist, but in Canada the primary division is between the caribou of the southern and northern arctic and the arctic cordillera (barren-ground caribou), and the herds of the taiga and boreal forests (woodland caribou). Aside from humans, the wolf is the caribou's primary predator. A healthy caribou can outrun a wolf, however, and it is most frequently the old or infirm who fall prey. The most important element of the Caribou's diet is lichens, which lay in a mat upon tundra and hang from coniferous trees in the boreal forest. In addition to lichen, caribou will graze upon horsetails, sedges, twigs and forbs.

Map of Caribou or Reindeer in Canada
Distribution of Caribou or Reindeer in Canada

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