Woodland Caribou

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(Rangifer tarandus)

Habitat and Biology:
Woodland caribou are usually found in mature or old growth conifer forests. Subalpine fir, Engelmann spruce, western redcedar and western hemlock are their preferred habitats. Their primary food is lichens which grow on trees (arboreal lichens). Other foods include huckleberry leaves, sedges and mushrooms. Caribou cows move to high elevations to calve in areas isolated from humans and other predators.

Woodland caribou are the most endangered mammal in the lower 48 states. The Selkirk Mountains population is estimated to be 41 caribou, and doesn't appear to be increasing. These caribou move back and forth from Idaho to Canada and Washington. Logging and other forest management is only allowed on the Idaho Panhandle National Forests if it won't harm caribou habitat.

Interesting Facts:

  • Female caribou are called cows. Unlike deer, elk or moose, they grow antlers, but these are smaller than bull caribou's antlers.
  • The name caribou probably comes from a Micmac word meaning "the one who paws." Caribou winter high in the mountains, where their large feet act like snowshoes and allow them to walk on deep snow and paw through the snow to find food.
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