The Caribou is a large species of big white-footed deer with large distribution, widely distributed in many countries, including Canada, USA, and Alaska. It is known for its giant size (the largest of any deer species) and for its high hunting trophies. The name “Caribou” was given to this animal by an Inuit man who saw it swimming across the bay inlet in Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia in 1549. This is an account of what the Caribou is called today.
DescriptionThe caribou, also called caribou in North America, really is a sub-species of the white-tailed deer, also known as caribou throughout North America and Alaskan geography. This includes both migratory and sedentary populations. Primitive caribou populations have brownish fur with gray-black head fur and a white underbelly. In the spring time, these animals may display bright white splotches on their undersides, legs, and antlers. These color changes, along with a black crescent mark behind the eye, distinguish the caribou from the white-tailed deer. Other distinguishing characteristics are the large size and robust muscularity of the animal, the large size and whitish underbelly of the male Caribou, large mane and tufted ears of both sexes.
StatusThe caribou is considered vulnerable in some areas and vulnerable in others due to loss of habitat and hunting pressure. In certain areas they are considered endangered with hunting restrictions in force. Hunting is an important reason for the decline in this population and one that continues to be fiercely opposed. There are only around 400 mature Caribou in Alaska, with an estimated decline of up to thirty percent in the past forty years.
Causes Although there is little need to fear the caribou, it is important to know what their decline means to the ecosystems where they live and travel. The caribou’s main sources of food are the tundra and wild herds, but they also rely on roads and settlements for their daily grind. Their numbers have been dwindling dramatically in many Alaskan communities over the last fifteen years, causing severe reduction in reproductive capacity and reducing the browsing pressure on the resource.
Harmful Damage Caribou have the ability to cause severe damage to their tundra habitat by mauling young calves. They have also been known to severely injure or kill bullocks and sheep. For these reasons and many others, hunters who target the caribou are putting themselves in danger not only for themselves but also for the future of this beautiful species.
In their natural environment, the caribou is a dominant predator that dominates the landscape. Inhabiting the tundra during spring and fall, the caribou feeds on all the wildlife that passes through its territory, including birds, small deer, bears, moose and rodents. It is important to note that hunting these animals will drastically reduce the caribou population, as they are a part of the ecosystem that must be preserved in order to survive. With hunting the caribou, an opportunity to preserve an already rare species and maintain the delicate balance of the Alaskan ecosystems will not be lost.