Thursday, July 11, 2019

Barren-Ground Caribou

The species known as the reindeer in Europe is the same species as the caribou in North America (Rangifer tarandus). There are 14 subspecies, two of which are extinct. One of the subspecies, the barren-ground caribou (R. t. groenlandicus), is found on the tundra in the Canadian territories of Nunavut and the Northwest Territories and also in western Greenland. 
A caribou standing on the undulated ground left by a retreating glacier. 
There are four main populations of barren-ground caribou in western Greenland. The largest, the Kangerlussuaq-Sisimiut herd, had a population of about 98,000 in 2007. We saw several members of this herd outside Kangerlussuaq when we took a huge four-wheel drive vehicle down a rutted dirt road, the longest in Greenland, to visit the ice sheet. However, we were only able to stop and photograph one of them. 

The barren-ground caribou is medium-sized with females weighing about 200 pounds and males 330 pounds. Both males and females have antlers. During summer the coat is brown and much lighter in winter. Its main food source is lichen, but they also feed on sedges, grasses, twigs and mushrooms. 

I was hoping to see more caribou along the road, but happy we got to photograph at least one of them. 

1 comment:

  1. It was a pretty mangy looking critter. Was it between seasons on its fur coat, or was it unhealthy?