The woodland caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou) is also known as boreal woodland caribou, boreal forest caribou, or forest-dwelling caribou. It is a subspecies of reindeer found in North America, mostly in Canada. They are the largest of the caribou subspecies. They are mostly dark-colored with a small mane visible from the fr0nt and have flat-beamed antlers. They have become very rare and urgent work needs to be done to stabilize their declining population. The woodland caribou loves lichen-rich mature forests and are found in the bogs, marshes, or near to any water body. Their range covers half of Canada, right from Alaska to Labrador and Newfoundland. They were previously found in some of the northern states of the United States. The woodland caribou is extremely sensitive to natural or human disturbance or habitat damage, or encroachment brought by resources exploration or industrial development.
Caribou species comprise a significant number of subspecies found across North America. Out of these, Rangifer tarandus caribou or the woodland caribou is found only in Canada. Like caribou they also have distinct crescent-shaped hooves that change shape as the season changes, to make them adapt to walk on snow as well as the soft grounds of swamps and peatlands. These special hooves also help them to dig in the snow for foraging lichens and other vegetation buried under. Both males and females have antlers. Here are some of the most interesting facts about Canada's woodland caribou species (Rangifer tarandus caribou). Afterward do check our other articles on caribou and elks as well.
What do they prey on?
Tree and ground lichens
What do they eat?
Average litter size?
How much do they weigh?
242-463 lb (109.7-210 kg)
How long are they?
5.9-6.9 ft (179.8-210.3 cm)
How tall are they?
2.8-4.9 ft (84.7-149.9 cm)
What do they look like?
Gray-brown coat, white fur on shoulders, chests, bellies, and tails with hooves (concave shape)
What are their main threats?
Habitat loss, climate change, predators
What is their conservation status?
Where you'll find them
Canada's Boreal forests, open tundra, and taiga forests
North America and Eurasia
Rangifer tarandus caribou
Woodland Caribou Interesting Facts
What type of animal is a woodland caribou?
The woodland caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou) is a type of Cervidae or a caribou.
What class of animal does a woodland caribou belong to?
The woodland caribou belongs to the mammal class of animals. It gives birth to offspring like all mammals. The herds of this reindeer species are primarily found in Canada's boreal forests, open tundra, and taiga forests. Predators of these Northern American caribou are wolves, lynx, cougars, coyotes, and bears.
How many woodland caribou are there in the world?
There are about 85,000 individuals of Northern American caribou in Newfoundland, 35,000 in North Mountain, and 200 in the Atlantic-Gaspesie region in Canada. In the United States, these wild animals are critically endangered and are referred to as gray ghosts as they are rarely spotted. By some estimates, there are only three individuals of this species in the country. Climate change and habitat loss have been attributed as the main reason behind the declining population of these animals.
Where does a woodland caribou live?
The woodland caribou herds have a nearly circumpolar distribution range of habitat. This Canadian reindeer species is found only in boreal forests, open tundra, and taiga forests of Canada now. There are just three individuals in the United States, putting the survival chances of the species at risk. These animals live in a group known as a herd.
What is a woodland caribou's habitat?
The Northern American woodland caribou populations love lichen-rich mature forests and are found in the bogs, marshes, or near to any water body rich with wildlife. Canadian reindeer species are found in the arctic tundra region and subarctic or boreal forest region of Canada.
Who do woodland caribou live with?
The Canadian woodland caribou do not live in large groups or herds. They may lead solitary life most of the year and pair during the mating season.
How long does a woodland caribou live?
They have a lifespan of 8-15 years which may be on the shorter side in the wild due to predation and lack of food. They are critically endangered species that are losing their natural habitat rapidly which has threatened to reduce their life span and in turn an overall decline in their populations.
How do they reproduce?
The female woodland caribou reach sexual maturity by 1.5 years of age. The males reach sexual maturity by two years of age. However, the males are not ready to breed till they turn four years of age. This could be because of the hierarchical nature of the herd where the younger male will have to compete with the older ones. The reproduction rate is said to be low. The breeding period occurs from September end to the start of October. The offspring are born in mid-June. It is said the females may return to their original home to give birth to their young ones due to which they are more vulnerable to predation. Also, the calves separate in front of the herd and remain alone till mid-winter. The gestation period could be 228 days.
What is their conservation status?
The conservation status of the woodland caribou is Endangered in wildlife. They are rapidly losing their natural habitat due to industrial development and encroachment which has resulted in environmental degradation. The survival of this species is also threatened by climate change which is affecting their habitats. Human development along their migration route is also a reason behind their deteriorating population. National and regional coordination are required to improve their conservation status.
Woodland Caribou Fun Facts
What do woodland caribou look like?
The woodland caribou is well adapted to extremely cold temperatures. They have a thick long coat and a blunt muzzle along with small ears and short tails. During the summers, the adults have a dark brown coat, which turns grayer during winter. They have a cream-colored neck region with a mane and a stripe on their shoulder, along with a buff underbelly, the underside of the tail, and a patch above each hoof. Both males and females have antlers but in some cases, females may have only one antler and in rare cases, the antlers might be entirely absent. Their antlers are compact, flattened, and dense in comparison to other caribou’s antlers. They are also broader and thicker as compared to other deer species.
How cute are they?
The woodland caribou are distinctive creatures that are rarely seen these days due to their dwindling population. But they do look absolutely cute and majestic.
How do they communicate?
Woodland caribous are known to communicate with a series of clicks and grunts. They may use visual, vocal, tactile, and chemical communication cues. These deer subspecies are known to have a keen sense of smell to dig out food from the snow.
How big is a woodland caribou?
The woodland caribou is the largest subspecies of caribou in the world. They have a length of 5.9-6.9 ft (179.8-210.3 cm) and height of 2.8-4.9 ft (84.7-149.9 cm).
How fast can a woodland caribou run?
The woodland caribou are known as smart, cunning, and elusive creatures who are hard to hunt. They may freeze in times of danger instead of running faster like other caribou. They can run at speeds of 32-35 mph (51.5-56.3 kph).
How much does a woodland caribou weigh?
The woodland caribou weighs between 242-463 lb (109.7-210 kg). They are the largest subspecies among the caribou.
What are the male and female names of the species?
The male woodland caribou would be called stag or bug, and the female is called hind or doe. Their group is called a mob, gang, or herd.
What would you call a baby woodland caribou?
The baby woodland caribou is called fawn.
What do they eat?
They depend on nutrient-rich lichens found in mature forests. They are foraging or grazing herbivores. They eat leaves of birches, willows, cotton grass, mushrooms, sedges, and other such vegetation available during summer. They can dig deep in snow to reach the ground vegetation.
Are they dangerous?
Caribous are not at all harmful to humans. Human encroachment and industrial development have caused great distress to this already endangered species.
Would they make a good pet?
It won't be advisable to keep them as pets as they are habitat-sensitive species. They need to stay in the coldest regions of the world.
Did you know...
Canada has three types of caribous, which are Peary, Barren- ground, and woodland. These are subdivided by their habitat, behavior patterns, and lifestyle.
A male woodland caribou’s antlers will grow at the rate of one inch per day.
Pregnant female woodland caribou forage for sedges, leaves, and flowers during summer which provides them with nitrogen to produce milk.
Caribous have scent glands at the base of their ankles which send a warning scent to fellow woodland caribou.
There are none of these caribou in Banff National Park.
Why is the woodland caribou at risk?
The woodland caribou is facing habitat fragmentation, encroachment, and destruction of their original habitat. This is happening due to human activities and natural occurrences too. The increase in the population of one of its natural predators, the wolf, has caused great damage to them. The development of oil sands is one major reason for its loss of habitat. Mining, logging, oil and gas exploration, and all such industrial development had caused a lot of damage to their natural environment.
What animal eats woodland caribou?
Fawns are highly vulnerable along with their mother to attack from wolves, bears, and other predators. The other predators for this species are lynx, wolves, coyotes, and cougars.
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