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Common Name: Caribou “Reindeer”

Scientific Name: Rangifer tarandus


Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Mammalia

Order: Artiodactyla

Family: Cervidae

Genus: Rangifer

Species: R. tarandus


The scientific name for the caribou is Rangifer tarandus. Sometimes they are called "reindeer". The caribou live in North America, Russia, and Scandinavia. They are large four-legged animals. The newborn calves have reddish-brown fur. The adults are a brown color with a white neck. The females and males look the same except the males have larger antlers. They are the only deer species where both male and female have antlers. The male caribou is called a bull and the female is called a doe.


The average lifespan of the caribou is twelve years. The caribou eat leaves, flowers, fruit, sages, and mushrooms. When the weather changes they eat lichen off the trees. The average male weighs between three hundred fifty to four hundred pounds. The female averages one hundred seventy five to two hundred pounds. The biggest one ever recorded was seven hundred pounds. They live in herds. Sometimes there are over a thousand caribou in a herd.


Mating season happens during the rut. The antlers of the male become velvet like. Then they start to shed their antlers. Their senses are very sharp. They also communicate by bugling. After the rut, the animals migrate. Usually during the cold months. When the snow comes in Alaska, they travel to Canada. They move about fifty miles a day in search of food and water. They use their paws to dig in the snow for food.


Author: Eric W

Published: 02/2007


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