Reindeer, rangifer tarandus, and caribou are the exact same species with only a couple of minor differences. They stand 4 to 5 feet (1.2 to 1.5 meters) at the shoulder and weigh 240 to 700 pounds (109 to 318 kilograms) with reindeer being the smaller of the two. The other “major” difference is the slightly higher coloration of reindeer to caribou. Aside from this, they basically behave in the same manor. Males are called bulls and females are called cows. Reindeer/Caribou are the only species of deer in which both the males and females grow antlers (although only some females actually do).
Reindeer/Caribou are located in the northern regions of North America, Europe, Asia and Greenland. They have two layers of fur which keep them warm in their cold habitats. Their hooves are also well suited for different environments. In the summer, their footpads become sponge-like in order to better grasp a bigger surface area on the damp ground. During the winter, their footpads shrink and tighten, which exposes the rim of the hoof, allowing them to cut into the ice and crusted snow to prevent them from slipping. As summer approaches, Reindeer/Caribou will head north in one of the greatest large-animal migrations in the world. They will cover more than 600 miles (965 kilometers) with the females leaving several weeks before the males follow with the year-old calves from the previous birthing season.
Reindeer/Caribou feed on the abundant grasses and plants that populate their habitat. During the winter, their diet consists largely of lichens that they dig up out of the snow with their hooves. They can eat as much as 12 pounds (5 kilograms) of food each and every day. They must constantly be on the lookout for predators when they migrate. They run from danger, often confusing predators due to their high numbers.
Female reindeer/caribou give birth to one calf every spring after a gestation period of 210 to 240 days. The calves are able to stand only a few minutes after they are born and will move with its mother the next day. They nurse for about 6 months before they are able to eat plants exclusively. If the calves can survive, they can live to be 15 to 20 years old.
Reindeer/Caribou are an endangered species. Habitat loss is a major factor in their decline. Hopefully, a solution can be found soon before they are gone from this world entirely. After all, so a well known and loved creature deserves to live for future generations to see.
“Reindeer” 23 November 2010
“Caribou” 23 November 2010
“World of Reindeer (Ungulates)” 23 November 2010