Calling All Caribou!


We’ve rounded up the herd to give you an insider look at the caribou. Find out about their style, home range and favourite foods then take the quiz to test your caribou smarts.

herd caribous
Flickr Credit: Peupleloup

Meal time: Like most herd animals, caribou are always on the move to find food. In the summer, they dine on lots of greens like the leaves of willows and shrubs. In September, they switch to lichens (reindeer moss), grass-like plants, and small shrubs to get them through the winter.

hoofs caribou
Photo Credit: Tanya Dewey, Animal Diversity Web, University of Michigan Museum of Zoology

Style: Caribou have short tails and heavy coats that keep them warm in winter. Their coats have hollow hairs which lock in the warmth and allow them to float in water.They use their large hooves to dig through the snow for food. Their broad hooves also come in handy for staying on top of the snow and to help them swim. Caribou are also the only members of the deer family where both the males and females grow antlers.

Home: These animals love the cold; roaming in the Arctic, the mountains and the northern boreal forests of Canada, Alaska, Russia, and Scandinavia. Not all of the caribou in the world are the same though. Some migrate long distances from the forests in the spring, heading north to give birth to their calves on the tundra. Other caribou just move up and down mountain slopes or live year-round in small groups in the boreal forest.

Threats: In Ontario, there are fewer caribou living in the boreal forest than 100 years ago. They once roamed as far south as North Bay but today they stick to the north where there are few roads and almost no development. This northern haven isn’t as safe as it used to be though, as people move north looking for gold, diamonds, and more trees; they change the  caribou’s home forever.

Caring for the Caribou

One of the best ways to help protect this animal is to keep the areas they call home ‘caribou friendly’. To help protect their land, we need experts with the skills and know-how to think like a caribou, that’s where the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) Canada comes in.

aerial herd caribou migrating
Photo Credit: Harley McMahon

How to protect a caribou: The super scientists at WCS Canada get to know the caribou by using modern spy techniques. Taking to the skies in low flying airplanes they soar over the land in stealth mode to find and count caribou and their tracks. They also use radio-receivers  to track radio-collared females and check on their young to see how they are doing.

Caribou mapping: Once the scientists have all the details on where the caribou go they make maps that show their locations. This information helps us understand why certain areas are important for the caribou and if there are “hang-outs” that may need more protection.

You Can Help the Caribou!

We need kids like you to share your caribou know-how with friends and family to raise awareness. Then team-up with WCS Canada and Earth Rangers to support caribou conservation.

Caribou Smarts

Can you think like a caribou? See if you can solve these brain teasers and don’t worry if you get stumped the answers are below.

caribou antlers snow forest
Flickr Credit: Peupleloup

1)    Why do caribou make a clicking noise when they walk?

a)    Because they are busting out rhymes and need a beat to sing to.
b)    The clicking helps them keep track of each other and stay as a herd.
c)    They  have tendons that rub across a bone in their foot that makes this noise.

2)    How do the caribou find food hidden under the snow?

a) They have an excellent memory, mapping out good grazing areas in the summer and then returning to these spots once the snow has fallen.
b) They have an excellent sense of smell that helps them locate food.
c) They are fast diggers and will just keep moving the snow away from the ground with their hooves and antlers until they find food.

3)    Caribou can run for many kilometers during the summer to…?

a)    Hide from tourists, they are super shy and hate having their picture taken.
b)    Escape hordes of flying insects.
c)    To race, the caribou that runs the fastest, is in charge!

Use your mouse to scroll over the brackets and reveal the answers (1 c,2 b, 3 b)

Still looking for more caribou info? Check out these links:

Earth Rangers is a non-profit organization that works to inspire and educate children about the environment. At kids can play games, discover amazing facts, meet animal ambassadors and fundraise to protect biodiversity.