Caribou History and Information
The Caribou is a large species of white-toothed deer with wide-ranging distribution, found mostly in tundra and sub-arctic areas of North America, Canada, Russia, Norway, and Alaska. This includes both migratory and sedentary populations. Mature in the winter and fall, migrating to calving grounds in the spring and mountains in summer, they are a species not seen much inland. They are a large part of the meat-eating industry.
Caribou herds are influenced by season and habitat. In winter, they feed on caribou, but in summer, they concentrate on snow-mobiles, i.e. the snow goose, rather than Caribou. They move into territory unoccupied in summer to bury their winter fat and prepare for new ranges. In addition to their seasonal movements, they move across land when land becomes vacant because of farming or other human activities.
In summer, these animals head out into longer range habitats such as tundra. In late autumn or early winter, herds move into calving grounds either to go to winter ranges or to re-establish their summer ranges. At this time, they usually begin to display their plumage for potential mates and establish their territories.
During the spring time, herds re-entrain as the weather warms up. In southern Canada, the spring migration continues as the tundra melts. In boreal and tundra regions, the winter ranges start opening, while in southern Canada, the first signs of spring in the lower part of the winter ranges are seen by the caribou. In some regions where ice has started to melt, the last of the caribou arrives in May or early June.
During July, the first calves are born. The female caribou give birth sometime between mid-July and early August and the young are weaned by September or October. Sexual maturity is reached at nearly 50 years of age. The young have a deep birth, followed by a weaning period that can last from two weeks to a month.
Caribou herds in all areas of Canada to increase during the winter months as they seek greener pastures. In southern Canada, herds often include more mature females than the usual herds. In addition, some groups have calves older than 1 year. These younger calves feed on the winter vegetation until the spring snow returns and new grass grows.
In areas of high population density, where there is little vegetation, hunting can be an effective means of attracting caribou herds. Hunting is popular among all ethnic groups in Canada; in fact, it is legal in most provinces. However, hunting can become dangerous for hunters when in densely forested areas. Hunters need to practice safe hunting habits to avoid accidental injury. Using a proper trail runner and taking safety precautions are important for a safe and enjoyable hunt.
Caribou herds in Alaska and British Columbia are increasing. In both regions, the focus has been on promoting the long-term health and survival of the herds. Caribou are iconic species and help in the maintenance of natural habitats. For this reason, it is essential to preserve them in their natural habitat.