The Caribou, also called caribou in North America, is an arctic species of large deer with very restricted distribution, inhabiting tundra, sub-Arctic, and mountain regions of north, central, and south America. This includes both migratory and sedentary populations. A large part of the caribou’s diet is composed of fat, although they are omnivorous and eat vegetation in the wild. They hunt for prey such as small deer, moose, rabbit, fish, and arctic foxes on the tundra and in marshlands and swamps. They also prey on other large herbivores such as snowshoe hare, bear, elk, sheep, mountain goats, and mountain lions.
Social structure and family structure are highly evolved in this species. The young are weaned into roaming on their own and become independent hunters at about two years of age. The mother gives birth to up to eight calves during each year, with the number correlating to the abundance of prey animal in the area. Mother caribou often carry pups in her belly until they can fend for themselves.
Caribou herds are found in two types – caribou herds that wander habitually and those that inhabit bogs. Caribou herds that wander habitually are referred to as wandering herds and are often found in tundra regions. These herds feed on a wide range of vegetation including lichen, reed, larch, fir, hemlock, snowshoes, sardines, wild berries, as well as grass. Frequently, these herds travel as part of migrating herds. Caribou that inhabit bogs are referred to as calving herds and roam along ice-coated mountains.
When a pair of caribou become mates and have produced young, they head out into the bogs and search for sustenance. If they find clams, they often raise their young there until they are able to fend for themselves. As a result, young caribou are known to be weaned by the female caribou and given to the male caribou to mate with, or help rear, while the mother returns to the maternity den.
When a pair of caribou have produced young, they head out into bogs and start to hunt for their prey. When they spot a seal, they quickly make a beeline for it, but sometimes get stuck. Then they clammage around the frightened seal until it opens up to reveal an ample mass of prime caribou meat. Then the young caribou eats the whole seal whole. It takes a lot of acrobatics, but the young caribou usually manage to carry off the seal and bring it back to the maternity den.
After the young have had their nourishment, they are returned to the old place and the mother caribou feeds them and keeps them warm. These caribou mothers do not cook their young because they only bring them cooked. So, these amazing creatures feed on their young until they become strong enough to head out on their own. When they return to the maternity grounds, they give the young caribou more attention than before. They browse on the trees and look for bugs and other small animals. Then they follow the herd to the water’s edge where they look for fish.