The Caribou, also called caribou in North America, which is a genus of large deer with unique, semi-annual seasonal distribution, inhabiting tundra, sub-arctic, arctic, and tundra areas of North America. This includes both migratory and sedentary populations. A resident since before the last interglacial period, they are adapted to a wide range of habitats including wooded areas, meadows, plains, forests, and lowland lakes. Although smaller in stature than the American bison, they have been proven to be stronger hunters and smaller in size than the big whitetail, weighing up to fifteen pounds.
A gestation period of two months is followed by the birth of calves in late winter or early spring. Mother rears her young for up to eight weeks, depending on the weather conditions and whether she is able to find food for the calves. When calves are weaned, they gain independence and move from their mother’s grazing area to a temporary refuge. The young stay with their mother until they can fend for themselves.
Caribou mothers keep their young separated from the herd for up to two years, during which time they learn to hunt together as a pack. This period is called being in together, or join up. Once they gain independence, the young reindeer travel for short distances using snowshoes and hunting lamps in order to get close to the caribou herds. The mothers teach their calves at this point to hunt in a specific way, such as how to track and kill prey using sight, scent, and also to hunt in packs.
Later, when the calf is about two years old, they are taken away from the mother and sent to live in a ramshackle hut called a cave. Caribou herdsmen are their hunters and protect them from enemies. The mother rears her calves for three years, and then they are raised in the same environment as the rest of the herd. It takes about seven years for the female to give birth, and the young spend their first five years hiding from other hunters. They gain confidence as they grow older, especially when they start to take down bigger animals. Their hunting style changes to that of the herd, so that they can better protect the herd and its offspring.
Caribou are nocturnal creatures. During the day, they seek out food and search for their prey using terrain, but at night they sleep deep inside the brush or tall grasses. During summer when the air temperature is warm, they hunt along the shoreline, but at night they prefer to be deeper in the forest, where there is more cover. Caribou have good hearing and a keen sense of smell, so they can locate animals that are either sleeping or in a feeding position long before they are seen by the human eye.
Caribou are very elusive in the winter months, which is why tracking and hunting them are sometimes difficult. When it is possible, caribou meat becomes very expensive, but the market for caribou fur never quite crashes because people always need the fur. Fur sales account for most of the economy of the Canadian provinces. Other products like wood and fur are also used for clothing and housewares, making Canada a rich country indeed.