Listen To It!
Mass: 60 to 318 kg
Length: to 8 ft. (2.4 m)
Biomes: tundra, taiga, temperate forest & rainforest
Range: Historically, caribou were found in all northern latitudes, but due to extensive hunting by humans are now extinct in many parts of their range. The largest herds now occur in arctic tundra regions of Alaska, Canada, Scandanavia and Russia.
Caribou are fairly large animals, measuring 870-1400 mm in height at the shoulder. The total length of these animals ranges from 1270 - 2410 mm, of which 70-210 mm are tail. There is marked sexual dimorphism, with males being significantly larger than females. The coat is very heavy with dense, wooly underfur. Coat color is predominantly brown to olive, with whitish underparts, buttocks and legs, but there is a great deal of geographic variation. Some populations in Greenland and northeastern Canada have nearly white coats. Both sexes are antlered.
This species has been heavily hunted by humans. They have been extinct in most parts of Europe since at least the 1600s. Currently, there are 30 herds in North America. Some, in Washington and Idaho, number less than 30 animals. The seven largest herds fluctuate between 50,000 and 200,000 animals. Exploration for oil and minerals in may parts of their range threaten caribou habitat. The USA endangered species act lists them as endangered in Canada and in Idaho and Washington.
The feet of these animals are broad and flat with deeply cleft hooves. The structure of their feet presumably allows them to navigate the winter snows and the summertime spongy arctic tundra. Tendons snap across a bone in the foot, producing a clicking sound as the animals walk. Hunters often make use of this noise to locate the animals. Tracks are 4 - 5 in. (10 - 13 cm.) long and cresent shaped toes are widely spaced. Dew claw marks are often evident when running and / or in snow, soft soil and mud.