Scientific Name: – Rangifer tarandus
The caribou, also known as reindeer and wild reindeer in Europe and Eurasia, of the same species?Rangifer tarandus? is a medium size ungulate of the Cervidae family which also includes wapiti, moose and deer. The North American range of this Holarctic animal extends from Alaska, through the Yukon, the Northwest Territories, Nunavut, into the boreal forest and south through the Canadian Rockies and the Columbia and Selkirk Mountains. The caribou is a specialist that is well adapted to cooler climates with hollow-hair fur that covers almost all of its body including its nose, and provides insulation in winter and flotation for swimming. Two major subspecies in North America, the R. t. granti and the R. t. groenlandicus form large herds and undertake lengthy seasonal migrations from birthing grounds, to summer and winter feeding grounds in the tundra and taiga. The migrations of R. t. granti Porcupine herd are among the longest of any terrestrial mammal. The George River caribou herd (GRCH) of the R. t. caribou subspecies in the Ungava area?once the largest Rangifer tarandus herd in the world?declined to 74?131 animals?a drop of up to 92%. In 2011 the combined Beverly/Ahiak herd in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, had approximately 124?000 caribou? at least a 50% drop since 1994; the Western caribou herd had 325?000 animals and the Qamanirjuaq caribou herd which is relatively stable had declined from 496?000 in 1994 to 345?000 in 2008. The meta-population of the more sedentary subspecies R. t. caribou or Woodland caribou spans the boreal forest from the Northwest Territories to Labrador. They are shy animals whose main food source is arboreal lichens of the mature forests and mainly live in marshes, bogs, lakes, and river regions. Since it takes hundreds of years for a biomass of tree lichen to be adequate to sustain boreal woodland caribou populations, deforestation is a major factor in the decline of their numbers. The historic range of the boreal woodland caribou covered over half of present-day Canada, stretching from Alaska to Newfoundland and Labrador and as far south as New England, Idaho, and Washington. The smallest subspecies in North America, the Peary Caribou is found in the High and Low Arctic, in the Northwest Territories?particularly, Banks Island and in Nunavut?particularly, Baffin Island.