The Caribou, also called caribou in North America, is a species of large deer with dense distribution, historically distributed throughout all of North America, sub-dredged, tundra, and cold arctic areas of north-central Europe, Asia, and North America. It includes both migratory and sedentary populations. The winter snowfall provides a great opportunity for the migrating Caribou to travel south to southwest through the large gaps in the polar snow.
The life history of Caribou is characterized by long life spans (trees and herds last one year per year) and short life spans (usually two years or less). After a year of migration, females give birth to calves that stay with the herd until it is safe to move to calving grounds. Less than a year later the calf is weaned and left on a tree or brush to fend for itself. Aided by nature, the young Caribou learns to walk by standing on its hind legs and standing on its front feet. These are the first steps of independence for Caribou. They live up to 60 years in captivity.
Caribou have adapted well to their unique habitat and greatly increase in numbers over the last century. Their numbers have increased so much that in some areas they are the dominant land animal. They prefer to hunt for their food in thick forests and inhale the cool, breathable air of clean, fresh rivers and streams. Caribou are omnivores but are particularly fond of birds, bugs, and insects. They also eat berries, grasses, roots, fungi, roots, carpenter ants, worms, snails, and other types of small animals.
In fact, Caribou are among the most prolific wildlife predators in the Canadian winter climate. With an estimated yearly harvest of more than 25 million caribou, they are an integral part of Canada’s biological landscape. Although their numbers have declined slightly in the past few decades because of loss of their summer pasture habitats, they are considered one of the most sustainable wildlife industries in Canada. Their meat and fur exports are worth billions of dollars annually, helping to support the economy of Canada and creating many local job openings in rural communities.
While hunting and harvesting are necessary to support the sustainability of Caribou populations, reducing the pressure of the elements is essential to their long term survival. An effective management plan can be implemented that will allow wildlife managers to reduce the impact of winter snow on the Caribou population through a variety of means. Most importantly, farmers must reduce the use of chemicals on their land. Farmers use herbicides, pesticides, and insecticides on a regular basis, leading to the accumulation of toxic residue in soils and the poisoning of water sources.
Reducing the demand for herbicides and pesticides is the most effective way to preserve the caribou’s winter habitat. Farmers should also make efforts to prevent traffic between farms and adjacent forests and waterways. Public awareness education programs can help communities and individuals understand the importance of conservation and environmental management for the caribou. When we think of caribou, our minds often turn to the wild animals in the park; but without the protection of a healthy habitat, caribou are vulnerable to a lack of prey and to the harsh winter conditions.