Adapted from Hinterland Who’s Who online
The caribou, or Rangifer tarandus, is a mediumsized member of the deer family, Cervidae, which includes four other species of deer native to Canada: moose, elk, white-tailed deer and mule deer; it is the same species as the reindeer of Eurasia. Only with caribou do both males and females carry antlers.
There are about 2.4 million caribou in Canada. Despite the apparently large number, some populations have been determined to be at risk by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (online, search COSEWIC).
Historically Canadian caribou have been divided into four subspecies based on location, genetic makeup and evolution. Six years ago, Environment Canada commissioned a report rethinking species types and diversity. The study considered “phylogenetics, genetic diversity and structure, morphology, movements, behaviour and life history strategies, and geographical distribution” and concluded that there are 12 discrete types of caribou in Canada.
They identified: Boreal caribou in the boreal forest from B.C. and the Northwest Territories to Labrador; Northern Mountain caribou of B.C, Yukon and Northwest Territories; Central Mountain caribou of central B.C. and Alberta; Southern Mountain caribou of southern B.C.; Barren-ground caribou of northern and northwest Canada; Peary caribou in the Arctic Archipelago; Dolphin-union caribou of Victoria Island; Eastern Migratory caribou of northern Labrador, Quebec, Ontario, and Manitoba; Newfoundland caribou; Torngat Mountain caribou of northern Quebec and Labrador; Atlantic-gaspésie caribou, the remnant of a population in the Gaspé Peninsula, the Maritimes, and northern New England; and
Dawson’s caribou, which went extinct from Haida Gwaii in the 1930s.
Caribou are well-adapted to winter. Their short, stocky bodies conserve heat, their long legs help them move through snow, and their long dense winter coats provide effective insulation, even in extreme cold and high wind. Large, concave hooves splay widely to support the animal in snow or muskeg, and function as efficient scoops when the caribou paws through snow to uncover lichens, a primary food. (The name “caribou” may be derived from the Mi’kmaq name for the animal, “xalibu,” which means “the one who paws.”) –Staff
Visit hww.ca for a lot more information.