Peary caribou

Peary caribou


Rangifer tarandus pearyi

The Peary caribou is a subspecies of caribou found in the High Arctic islands of Nunavut and the Northwest Territories in Canada. They are the smallest of the North American caribou, with the females weighing an average of 60 kg and the males 110 kg . In length the females average 1.4 m and the males 1.7 m . Like other caribou, both the males and females have antlers. The males grow their antlers from March to August and the females from June to September, and in both cases the velvet is gone by October. The coat of the caribou is white and thick in the winter. In the summer it becomes short and darker, almost slate-grey in colour. The coat is made up of hollow hair which helps to trap warmer air and insulate the caribou. The males become sexually mature after two years and the females after three years. Breeding is in the fall and depends on the female having built up sufficient fat reserves. The gestation period last for seven to eight months and one calf is produced. Peary caribou feed on most of the available grasses, Cyperaceae, lichen and mushrooms. In particular they seem to enjoy the purple saxifrage and in summer their muzzles become purple from the plants. Their hooves are sharp and shaped like a shovel to enable them to dig through the snow in search of food. The caribou rarely travel more than 150 km from their winter feeding grounds to the summer ones. They are able to outrun the Arctic wolf, their main predator, and are good swimmers. They usually travel in small groups of no more than twelve in the summer and four in the winter. The Peary caribou population has dropped from above 40,000 in 1961 to an estimated 13,000 adults in 2016, according to the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada . During this period, the number of days with above freezing temperatures has increased significantly, resulting in ice layers in the snow pack. These ice layers hinder foraging and are the likely cause for dramatic drops in caribou population in the future. The Peary caribou, called tuktu in Inuinnaqtun/Inuktitut, and written as ᕐᑯᑦᓯᑦᑐᒥ ᑐᒃᑐ in Inuktitut syllabics, is a major food source for the Inuit and was named after the American explorer Robert Peary.

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Peary caribou habitat map

Habits and Lifestyle

Seasonal behavior

Diet and Nutrition


1. Peary caribou Wikipedia article -
2. Peary caribou on The IUCN Red List site -

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