Caribou

(Rangifer tarandus)

Caribou

Factoid:

The caribou is the only member of the deer family in which both males and females grow antlers.

Status:

The woodland caribou is listed as endangered; other caribou are stable.

Population:

The main population of caribou is in Alaska, where the animal numbers about 950,000.

Threats:

Habitat development has had some impact on caribou populations.

Survival:

Male caribou live about seven to eight years. Females live slightly longer, to 10 or more years.

Caribou are medium-sized deer, 3 to 5 feet tall at the shoulder. Males weigh 275 to 660 pounds, and females 150 to 300 pounds. Cows give birth to one or rarely two calves in spring or summer. Newborns weigh up to 13 pounds at birth.

Woodland caribou have brown shaggy fur with a white neck, mane, belly, and tail, but caribou that live in Alaska and the arctic are almost completely white.

Antlers grow up to 5 feet long from end to end in males and 20 inches in females. Males and females also have a flattened brow tine that extends forward over the snout. Males shed their antler velvet in August, and their antlers fall off when mating season ends in October. Females keep their antlers until early spring, when they give birth.

Caribou are the only deer species that lives above the tree line year-round in some of North America's harshest habitat. They live in Alaska, Canada, and parts of Washington, feeding on conifers, grasses, sedges, lichen, mushrooms, birches, and willows. However, since it is sometimes hard to find food in extreme cold, caribou populations migrate with the seasons.

National Parks:

Caribou are found in: Denali National Park and Preserve, AK; Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve, AK; Bering Land Bridge National Preserve, AK; Noatak National Preserve, AK; Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve, AK; Glacier National Park, MT; North Cascades National Park, WA; Olympic National Park, WA; Mount Rainier National Park, WA; Kenai Fjords National Park, AK; Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, AK; Katmai National Park and Preserve, AK; Lake Clark National Park and Preserve, AK; and Aniakchak National Monument and Preserve, AK.

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