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Woodland caribou

Caribous Des Bois

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Woodland caribou

Facts about the Woodland caribou

Family:  Cervidae
Length:  173 to 247 cm
Antlers:  Can reach a length of 120 cm
Weight:  Males 118 to 205 kg
Females 80 to 110 kg
Sexual Maturity:  At approximately two years
Life span:  12 to 15 years

  • Eyesight:  They are near-sighted.
  • Sense of smell:  Very acute.
  • Pelage:  Long with colour patterns that vary according to age, sex, season and geographical distribution; greyish on the back and paler on the sides and belly. 
  • Hooves are wide and cloven to provide support and grip on icy surfaces and slippery rocks. 
  • Antlers, carried by both sexes, are smaller in females.

Caribou des boisThere are three subspecies of caribou in Canada:  the Woodland caribou, the Peary caribou and the Barren-ground caribou.  The barren-ground caribou, the most plentiful species in Canada, spend most of the year on the tundra, from Alaska right up to Baffin Island. 

The Woodland caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou) inhabit the boreal forests of Canada, from Newfoundland to British Columbia. 

A medium-sized cervid

The Woodland caribou is a medium-sized member of the deer family.  Its bulky, stocky body is well-adapted to life in the harsh and rugged northern environment.  Its wide hooves help it walk on snow-covered and boggy ground. 


The Woodland caribou inhabit coniferous forests, the subarctic taiga, arctic tundra and mountainous regions.  They are most active at dawn and dusk.  The Woodland caribou live in bands of 10 to 50 animals, although several factors affect the size of a herd, season.

Precocious fawns

In late May or early June, the doe usually drops only one fawn.  The newborn weighs between 4.5 and 7.8 kg.  A mere two hours after its birth, the fawn can follow its mother and will start to graze in the first few weeks.  Young caribou are more at risk from predators than adults. 

A liking for lichens

Caribou feed on lichens which their highly developed sense of smell helps them locate.  Their splayed hooves are used to dig for food in the snow.  They supplement their diet with leaves and twigs, flowers and grasses when they’re in season.

Rack & rut

The annual rut occurs in autumn.  A buck may have to ward off several challengers with its massive rack, before it gets to mate with a doe.  The bucks’ antlers are shed shortly after the end of the rutting season.  The females’ racks will not be shed until after the birth of the fawns at the end of the following spring.  


Caribou des boisGrey wolves and black bears are some of the predators that prey on Woodland caribou.  But man should be listed as their chief predator.  Caribou are extremely curious creatures, which makes them easy targets for a hunter’s ambush.

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