Peary in the summer, it is slate gray


Peary caribou are the smallest of the caribou, they have
shorter faces and their hooves are wide, which helps them to walk through the
snow. Their legs are a lighter colour than the other caribou and in the winter
months the Peary caribou will have a mostly white coat and in the summer, it is
slate gray with white legs and belly. The Peary caribou has the thickest coat of
all the caribou. Their hollow hair helps keep in the warm air and protect their
bodies from the cold. Both males and females have antlers, but the antlers on
adult males are larger than those on females and young males. The velvet
covering the antlers is gray, which is different from the other barren-ground
caribous. Their antlers are not as wide as some of the other caribou, but they
are similar, and their skull has a short snout and a high skull.

 

Peary caribou can be found in small groups on the Arctic
islands of the North West Territories and in Nunavut. In the NWT, they live on
Banks Island, northwest Victoria Island. In Nunavut, they live on Prince of
Wales Island, Somerset Island and the western Queen Elizabeth Islands.

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In the summer they will go looking for the richest foliage
which can usually be found on the upper slopes of river valleys and highlands. They
like to feed in soggy areas, which can include valleys slopes and plains. These
will provide sedges, willows, grasses, and herbs. In the winter, they live in
areas where the snow is not too deep such as rugged uplands, beaches, ridges,
and rocky outcrops. The thinner snow makes feeding easier.

Aulavik National Park in the Arctic lowlands in the northern
end of Banks Island is home to the Peary Caribou. The Thomsen River runs
through the park and is the northernmost river in North America. Aulavik
National Park of Canada is a fly-in park and it protects about 12,274 of Arctic
lowlands, which are at the north end of the island. In Aulavik, caribou have
been hunted there for more than 3,400 years. 

The Peary caribou do not make long distance migrates like
some of the other species, but they will, however, make seasonal trips on
islands or even swim from island to island to find food. In the very short
season of arctic vegetation growth, these caribou feed on forbs, grasses,
sedges, mosses, and especially willow. They do not rely on lichen which sets
them apart from the other caribou’s. They have evolved to have bigger stomachs,
so they can eat more plants that have a lower nutritional content. This
contributes to their fairly short seasonal migrations compared to their
subspecies.

If the female caribous can gain enough weight through the
summer, then she can store enough energy and fats to tolerate a pregnancy
through the winter months. Both male and female caribou reach maturity between
the ages of 3 and 4. The females can reproduce annually, but reproduction is
highly dependant on the severity if the winter.

The Peary caribou have adapted to the Arctic environment in
several ways including their small bodies which conserve heat, wider hooves
that allows them to walk on and dig through the snow, and pelage that gives
them camouflage. They are polygynous, which is a mating system where one male will mate with multiple females, but each
female only mates with one male, living in small groups but
maintaining a wide range across their landscape. They live to approximately 15
years in the wild and they will produce their first offspring by about 3 years
of age.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Peary caribou was declared threated in April 1979 and in
May of 2004 the Peary caribou became endangered decided by the Committee on the
Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. Caribou numbers have fluctuated on
different islands since the first surveys that were conducted in the early
1960s.

Canada is the only country that the Peary caribou lives, and
their population dropped from above 40,000 to 700 in the span of 48 years. The
harsh winters that have been occurring year after year, the layers on ice
prevent the caribou from getting their food and when the ice covers large
areas, the caribou can starve. The large ice layers prevent the caribou from feeding
and is likely one of the causes for the dramatic drops in the population. However,
a series of mild winters can also cause problems, the milder winters creates ice
and bad snow conditions. The movement and feeding are more difficult to produce
calves and increased numbers can also put stress on the amount of food
available.

Peary caribou numbers in the North West Territories declined
quickly between the 1960s and the 1990s. In the last 50 years, in the North
West Territories, there has been an 80% decline in the Peary caribou
population. The declines could be a combination of things which would include years
of very severe winters, spring weather, and hunting. Competition between
muskoxen and caribou for food can have an affect on the population. Wolves do prey
on caribou, but the impact of wolves is unknown.

In some areas, caribou are hunted for food. Hunting, in
combination with other factors, may have contributed to the decline of caribou
population on the Banks and Northwest Victoria Islands. There is also the industrial
development especially on calving grounds, which would affect the caribou
population. Migration from island to island is starting to be affected by
humans, herds might avoid good feeding spots because of settlement or
industrialization.

Being hunted by wolves, habitat competition for feeding spots,
sea ice conditions and even being hunted by humans can negatively affect the
population of the Peary caribou.

COSEWIC acknowledged the Peary caribou as Endangered in
2004, their population had continued to decline at an increasing rate. They
were listed as Endangered under the Species at Risk Act in February of 2011.

The Inuvialuit community took on a strong role in protecting
the Peary caribou. In Sachs Harbour a hunting quota was implemented in 1990 and
is now revised annually. The Olokhaktomiut Hunters and Trappers Committee
allowed for specific zones in their by-laws to confirm quotas are followed for
Peary caribou on northwest Victoria and the harvesting numbers remain low.

Different Wildlife Management Boards throughout the areas
are working with Territorial governments and the Canadian Wildlife Services to keep
track of the Peary caribou and to take on research projects to understand why this
happening. These research projects include mapping out all of the Peary
caribou’s feeding spots, and breeding grounds. This will implement a need for
hunting quotas across all of the committees.

 

 

 

 

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