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Woodland Caribou

Caribou (Rangifer Tarandus) are currently found in all Canadian provinces and territories except Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. The woodland subspecies is distributed across the forested and mountainous regions of Canada, including northern and west-central Alberta. The boreal and southern mountain populations of Woodland Caribou are considered threatened by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC 2000). Woodland Caribou are on Alberta's Blue List of species that may be at risk of declining to non-existent population levels in the province and are designated as threatened under the provincial Wildlife Act.

Woodland Caribou typically rely on large sections of mature to old forests that contain the caribou's primary winter food - lichens. Lichens (plants) are an important food source for caribou. Due to their extremely slow growth and limited dispersal mechanisms, lichens are found mostly in old forests. This fact explains why the Woodland Caribou love relatively old forests. Alberta's boreal ecotype caribou are typically found in peatland (muskeg) complexes dominated by black spruce and larch.

Caribou are medium-sized members of the deer family. They are distinguished by their brown coat, cream-coloured neck and mane, and large, intricate, forward curving antlers. Males and most females have antlers, although the females' are smaller. Caribou are well adapted to harsh winter conditions. Their large, crescent shaped hooves and relatively long legs are useful for digging through snow, to reach their winter food, and provide effective weight distribution for movement over snow or muskeg. Other adaptations to winter conditions include short ears, short tail, and hollow hair that provides excellent insulation and covers the entire body including the muzzle. To further reduce heat loss, caribou have a slower metabolism and a reduced rate of movement in most late winters when deep, crusted snow makes travel difficult. Despite these adaptations, fat reserves accumulated in summer are depleted during winter. Mountain and boreal ecotype Woodland Caribou differ in their seasonal movement patterns. Most mountain caribou in Alberta are migratory and make seasonal migrations between alpine or sub-alpine summer range and forested foothills winter range.

Woodland Caribou

Woodland Caribou