|Barren-ground caribou herd near the Thelon River|
|Subspecies:||R. t. groenlandicus|
|Rangifer tarandus groenlandicus
|Range of North American caribou subspecies|
Barren-ground caribou (Rangifer tarandus groenlandicus) is a subspecies of the caribou that is found mainly in the Canadian territories of Nunavut and the Northwest Territories, along with western Greenland. It sometimes includes the similar Porcupine caribou, in which case the barren-ground caribou is also found in Alaska. It is a medium sized caribou with the females weighing around 90 kg (200 lb) and the males around 150 kg (330 lb). However, on some of the smaller islands, the average weight may be less.
Like the Peary caribou, both the males and females have antlers. In general, during the summer, the coat of the caribou is brown, and much lighter in the winter. The neck and rump tends towards a creamy-white colour. However, the general colouration may differ depending on the region.
The barren-ground caribou usually breeds in the fall and calves in June but may not drop their single calf until July. Usually the female gives birth away from the herd and if possible on a patch of snow. After birth, the female licks the calf clean and eats the tissues and the placenta. This may serve two purposes, to replace nutrients lost from birthing and to help remove the scent that would attract predators.
The main food source is lichen but they also feed on Cyperaceae (sedges) and other grasses along with twigs and mushrooms. Caribou have also been observed to eat antlers and seaweed and to lick salt deposits. There is some evidence to suggest that on occasion they also feed on lemmings, Arctic char and bird eggs.
On the mainland of Canada, the animals may travel in herds of several thousand, but they move in smaller groups (no more than 50) on the islands. They are migratory animals and may travel 1,200 km (750 mi) in a season. Some groups, such as those living on Victoria Island during the summer, migrate to the mainland in the fall after the sea ice has formed. At this time, the smaller groups may form into a larger herd and several hundred animals may be seen. Mainland barren-ground caribou herds move to coastal areas for part of each year, with the exception of the Beverly Herd. The Beverly Herd (located primarily in Saskatchewan, Northwest Territories; portions in Nunavut, Manitoba, Alberta) and the Qamanirjuaq Herd (located primarily in Manitoba, Nunavut; portions in southeastern NWT, northeastern Saskatchewan) fall under the auspices of the Beverly and Qamanirjuaq Caribou Management Board.
The barren-ground caribou, one of several subspecies called tuktu in Inuinnaqtun/Inuktitut, and written as ᓇᐹᕐᑐᕐᑲᓐᖏᑦᑐᒥ ᑐᒃᑐ in Inuktitut syllabics, is a major food source for the Inuit, especially the Caribou Inuit bands living in the Kivalliq Region (Barren Lands) of present-day Nunavut.
The major predator of Barren-ground caribou is the arctic wolf. Wolves may follow the herd for many miles. The caribou has poor eyesight and hearing but is capable of outrunning the wolf.
- Grubb, P. (16 November 2005). Wilson, D. E.; Reeder, D. M, eds. Mammal Species of the World (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494.
- Cronin, M. A., M. D. Macneil, and J. C. Patton (2005). Variation in Mitochondrial DNA and Microsatellite DNA in caribou (Rangifer tarandus) in North America. Journal of Mammalogy 86(3): 495–505.
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- Terrestrial Mammals of Nunavut by Ingrid Anand-Wheeler. ISBN 1-55325-035-4
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