Well adapted to the cooler climates of northern Canada and Alaska, the caribou is a relatively large mammal that densely populates the ecosystems in which its found. Caribous are extremely fast and can reach speeds of up to 50 mph (80 km/h), which helps them elude predators.
1. Scientific & Common Names
4. Present Status
Scientific & Common Names
Kingdom - Animalia
Phylum - Chordata
Class - Mammalia
Order - Artiodactyla
Family - Cervidae
Subfamily - Capreolinae
Genus - Rangifer
Species - R. tarandus caribou
Common Names – Caribou, Boreal Woodland Caribou, Woodland Caribou, Forest-dwelling Caribou
You might think that only the males have antlers, but in many caribou species this is not true – females have antlers as well! Caribou are North American counterparts to the reindeer of Europe and Siberia.
The mating season for caribou is known as the rut, and during this time males will fight with each other using their antlers. Those with the most impressive antlers typically do most of the mating. When it's time to give birth, the female (doe) will migrate to a place where predators are unlikely to find her.
Caribou are migratory and travel farther than any other land animal (over 3000 miles!) in the course of one year. A single herd of caribou can number as many as half a million individuals.
Caribou evolved in North America, and then migrated to Asia over a land bridge that once existed between the two continents. From there they spread to Europe where they are known as reindeer. There are currently fourteen recognized subspecies of reindeer/caribou.
Overall, caribou are not considered threatened or vulnerable, and are classified as “least concern” on the conservation status spectrum. However, their numbers are declining in many areas of North America due to global warming as well as human development in their natural habitats, and certain niche species like the woodland caribou are quickly approaching endangered status.