caribou The Seward Ranger District is home to a small herd of barren-ground caribou. The Kenai Mountain Caribou Herd, numbering near 400, is the only barren-ground caribou herd living on a National Forest Ranger District. A non-migratory herd, these caribou live in the alpine tundra region of the Kenai Mountains between the Seward and Sterling Highways and the Hope Road. 

Physical Description

Medium-sized members of the deer family, caribou are the only deer species in which both sexes grow antlers. The antlers of adult bulls are much larger and more intricate than those found on females and immature males. Adult bulls shed their antlers at the end of the rut, in October, while non-pregnant females and immature bulls retain their antlers into April. Pregnant females retain their antlers the longest, shedding them once their calves are born. The presence of antlers into May is a good way to tell if a female is pregnant. 

The fur, or pelage, of caribou varies with the seasons. In winter, caribou fur is very long and thick, providing excellent insulation. The ends of winter fur are white-tipped, giving caribou a light, bleached out appearance. A white fringe, or mane, occurs on bull caribou in the winter. While fur is molting, (late May) caribou appear ragged, with very patchy fur. In summer caribou fur is much shorter and darker. Caribou calves are reddish brown with a dark stripe running down the back. Unlike the young of other deer species, caribou calves are not spotted.

Male caribou weigh between 350-400 pounds, with females weighing much less, around 175-225 pounds. At birth, caribou calves have an average weight of around 12-15 pounds. They grow very rapidly, doubling their weight within the first 15 days of life. Calving occurs in late May to early June, with all females in the herd giving birth within just a few days of each other. Twinning is very rare in caribou. 

Where to view caribou on the Seward Ranger District

The caribou on the Seward Ranger District are a mountain herd and cannot be observed from any roads. However for the more adventurous visitors, the Seward Ranger District offers a number of trails that can take you into caribou country. In the summer and autumn, Summit Creek Trail, starting just south of Summit Lake on the Seward Highway, is perhaps the best trail to view caribou from. There are two trails located near the end of Palmer Creek Road in Hope that also provide opportunities for viewing caribou. Although caribou are rarely seen from Resurrection Pass Trail, for those visitors wishing for an off trail experience, the alpine ridges on the western side of Resurrection Pass Trail are also excellent places to look for caribou. 

Although the terrain accessing caribou viewing opportunities is challenging, it is some of the most beautiful country on the District and a chance encounter with a caribou can be a very rewarding and worthwhile experience.

For more information

There is an annual hunt for the Kenai Mountains Caribou Herd beginning each August. Please contact the Alaska Department of Fish and Game for more information.

Website: http://www.state.ak.us/adfg/wildlife/geninfo/regs/huntregs.htm

Address: Alaska Department of Fish and Game
Division of Wildlife Conservation
333 Raspberry Road
Anchorage, AK 99518-1599

Phone number: (907) 267-2182