Well, I just got back in from three days of field work (which is why I missed Wednesday’s interesting fact…. I will make it up, I promise). While I was ATVing through the mountains of the Yukon I had the opportunity to come across a Caribou. This got me thinking that I should post a fact about Caribou, so Wild Fact #997 will be for the Caribou on the mountain top! As a side note and to clear up any confusion, Caribou and Reindeer are the same species (Rangifer tarandus), however, there are several different subspecies, which cause them to look and behave differently. According to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Santa’s Reindeer are of the subspecies “saintnicolas magicalus”. I have had this argument with co-workers in the past that Reindeer and Caribou are two separate species so I figured I would clear this up for anyone else.
Onto Wild Fact #997! Did you know that Caribou (Reindeer) hooves will adapt to the season? That’s right, in the summer the footpads on their hooves will be soft and spongy to provide some additional traction on the moist, soft tundra landscape. Once winter rolls around, the pads on their hooves will shrink causing the actual hard rim of the hoof to be exposed. This portion of the hoof is ideal for cutting through the ice preventing them from slipping. As well, Caribou will use this exposed rim to dig through the snow in order to reach their favourite food, Reindeer Lichen.
Again, this is just another example of how animals adapt to their environment in order to survive.
For more information on Santa’s Reindeer – Check out the Alaska Department of Fish and Game at http://www.adfg.state.ak.us/pubs/notebook/biggame/santasreindeer.php.