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WHAT ARE CARIBOU?


The caribou's body is dark brown, with lighter patches around the neck and rump, and white above each hoof. All males and some females have dark velvety antlers that are flattened and project forward. The average Caribou can live a life of up to 15 years depeding on a couple of factors.



Every animal faces its own set of situations that lead to a shorter or longer life. If a caribou lives in a herd that is declining (getting smaller over the years), it probably will have a shorter life than a caribou in a healthy or expanding herd. Every year the caribou cast off and re-grow a new set of antlers. The annual cycle of antler growth, velvet, and antler shedding varies with gender, reproductve status and age. The males shed their antlers in November or December, after mating, while the females and young may carry theirís through the winter months.














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Caribou have large, concave hooves that are ideal for traveling over snow or soft ground, and for digging in search of snow-covered lichens. The hooves are sharply edged for ice travel and are wide to serve as paddles when swimming. Caribou prefer mostly barren land during the summer months, moving to areas of mixed forests during the colder months. Caribou are herbivores. Their main food source is lichens, which gives caribou an advantage in the more harsh northern areas of its range where vegetation is scarce. The common "caribou moss" is actually a type of lichen (Cladonia rangiferina), which is a major food for caribou. Caribou also eat vegetation such as grasses, sedges, birch and willow leaves, and mosses.

 

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