•Order Artiodactla
Family Cervidae
Rangifer tarandus

There are thought to be 9 subspecies, 6 of which are found in North America. Caribou are named by herds and recognized this way for management purposes. The names are based on region or location of calving grounds and/or migration routes.

Evolutionary History

Rangifer tarandus is estimated to have been in North America for well over 2 million years. Unlike many ungulates who originated in Asia and crossed over into North America, the caribou did the opposite. They crossed the Bering Land Bridge from North America into Asia. There is evidence that the caribou had migrated as far south as New Mexico during glacial periods.


Caribou can vary in color from being dark brown to nearly all white depending upon season. They are larger than white-tailed deer but smaller than elk. For the most part caribou are mostly brown with a white neck and other various locations of white. Male caribou are quite larger than female caribou. Males weigh between 120 to 200 kilograms whereas females can be anywhere between 80 and 140 kilograms. Size can vary depending on which area a population lives in. Both sexes can have antlers but males are much larger.


Antler size can also vary on the area where a herd may live. Male caribou are often hunted for their coveted antlers. Hunter’s judge trophies based on shovels, bez’s, back points, and tops. Generally the more palmation, the better quality of trophy. Caribou have unique hooves. In the summer their footpads are soft and increase in size while in the winter the pads shrink and allow them to use their hooves to dig through snow.