Caribou -

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of the Great Caribou

Information on Caribou, detailed information on their habitat, way of life and more.

The reindeer (Rangifer tarandus), also known as the caribou when wild in North America, is an Arctic and Subarctic-dwelling deer, widespread and numerous across the northern Holarctic.

Reindeer have specialized noses featuring nasal turbinate bones that dramatically increase the surface area within the nostrils. Incoming cold air is warmed by the animal's body heat before entering the lungs, and water is condensed from the expired air and captured before the deer's breath is exhaled, used to moisten dry incoming air and possibly absorbed into the blood through the mucous membranes.

Reindeer are ruminants, having a four-chambered stomach.

They mainly eat lichens in winter, especially reindeer moss. However, they also eat the leaves of willows and birches, as well as sedges and grasses.

Mating occurs from late September or October to early November. Males battle for access to females. Two males will lock each other’s antlers together and try to push each other away. The most dominant males can collect as many as 15-20 females to mate with. A male will stop eating during this time and lose much of its body reserves.

Calves may be born the following May or June. After 45 days, the calves are able to graze and forage but continue suckling until the following fall and become independent from their mothers. The reindeer travels the furthest of any terrestrial mammal. The caribou of North America can run at speeds up to 80 km/h (50 mph) and can travel as much as 5,000 km (3,100 mi) a year. Migrations can number in the thousands. The most extensive migrations occur in spring and fall. During fall migrations, the groups become smaller and the reindeer begin to mate.

There are a variety of predators who prey heavily on reindeer. Golden Eagles prey on calves and are the most prolific hunter on calving grounds. Wolverine will take newborn calves or birthing cows, as well as (less commonly) infirm adults. Brown Bears and (in the rare cases where they encounter each other) Polar bears prey on reindeer of all ages, but (as with the wolverine) are mostly likely to attack calves or sickly animals.

Humans started hunting reindeer in the Mesolithic and Neolithic periods and humans are today the main predator in many areas. Norway and Greenland have unbroken traditions of hunting wild reindeer from the ice age until the present day.