Woodland Caribou

Woodland Caribou.

Name

  • Common name: Woodland Caribou
  • Scientific name: Rangifer tarandus caribou
  • Order: Artiodactyla
  • Family: Cervidae

Also known as

Northern Mountain Caribou, Boreal Caribou

Viewing opportunities

  • Caribou can be viewed along, and crossing Yukon highways in the winter.
  • The Robert Campbell Highway may allow you to spot part the Finlayson herd in winter. You can also see the Little Rancheria and Carcross herds during winter on the Alaska Highway near Watson Lake and Whitehorse.
  • In the summer, you can find Woodland Caribou in subalpine areas above the tree line, where they seek relief from insects.

Description

  • Dirty brown fur fading to tan to nearly off-white around the neck and white tail.
  • Face darker than rest of the body with a white muzzle.
  • White “socks” above the hooves.
  • Male antlers have one long curved branch with tines clustered at the top and a “shovel” branching over the forehead. Females also have antlers that are much smaller and not as elaborate.

Fast facts

  • Height: 120 cm
  • Weight: 180 kg (males); 135 kg (females)
  • Lifespan: 13 to 15 years
  • Predators: Wolves, Grizzly Bears, Wolverine, Golden Eagles
  • Habitat: Boreal Forest, Mountain Alpine

Conservation status

What is conservation status?

  • Yukon: S3 (Vulnerable)
  • Global: G5T4T5 (Secure/ subspecies Apparently Secure/Secure)

Yukon population estimate

41,000.

Behaviour

Woodland Caribou roam in small herds moving from the boreal forest in winter, up into the alpine tundra in summer, although some herds also spend much of the winter on windswept alpine slopes. They are the only animals that forage substantially on lichen in the winter. Their hooves are perfectly designed to dig through the snow to access the lichens below. They are also efficient swimmers.

Diet

Lichen, grasses, sedges, willows, mushrooms

Distribution

Woodland Caribou distribution map.

Sights and sounds

Woodland Caribou track, front.
Woodland Caribou track, front: 10.2 x 13 cm.
Photograph of Woodland Caribou tracks in the mud.
Track in the mud.

Woodland Caribou scat.
Woodland Caribou scat from summer diet.

Caribou and people

  • Caribou is a popular animal for Yukon hunters, but the season and hunting areas are very carefully regulated to keep the populations healthy.
  • Woodland Caribou are very susceptible to disturbance from habitat loss and encroachment.

Management plan

Download the Management Plan for the Chisana Caribou Herd.