The Woodland Caribou in Gaspésie, Canada
Many people know the Caribou (or Reindeer) just by name and because of its connotation to the Christmas holidays but few really know its biological peculiarities. Caribou refers to populations in North America while the reindeer is present in Europe. That said, we are talking about the same species! It is an intriguing animal that immediately gives nature lovers a vision of the great North with immense natural expanses, the rigor of winter, snowstorms. Woodland Caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou) are the most southerly subspecies in Canada, living in boreal or northern forests from British Columbia in the west to Newfoundland and Labrador to the east. This subspecies is therefore present in Quebec and Gaspésie. The Woodland Caribou is very well adapted to its environment, with a short, stocky body that keeps the heat and long legs allowing it to move in the snow without much difficulty. During winter, it has a very thick and long coat, which allows it to be safely isolated to withstand snowstorms and negative temperatures.
This ungulate mammal (animals with hooves) is able to adapt according to the season. Indeed, its large and concave hooves (similar to the fingers in humans) grow in winter and thus serve him to dig in the snow to find his food. They also have the distinction of having sharp edges which allows the Caribou to have a good grip on ice and slippery rocks. In summer, the claws wear out with rubbing with the rock and thus find their initial size. When this animal is in danger, glands located at the base of the ankle are able to secrete a special odor, recognized by all caribou in the area and gently indicating "save who can! "
Caribou feeds mainly on plants, lichens and roots, especially in winter when leaf activity on shrubs is suspended. In the same way as the Red Deer (Cervus elaphus) in Europe, the Caribou has woods that grow every year in the spring, until summer, towards the end of August. He ends up losing them once mating is done.
In Quebec and especially in Gaspésie, some herds of Woodland Caribou remain. They are concentrated in the boundaries of the Gaspésie National Park and are also in great danger. The last aerial survey of Woodland Caribou in the Gaspé peninsula shows only 75 individuals, which is very low for a species that used to be very common. It is estimated that the population has fallen by about 60% in the last 10 years. A decline that is widespread throughout Quebec and North America. For this reason, the authorities have decided to classify the species as "Vulnerable" throughout the country. According to Quebec experts, this critical situation is due to several factors: deterioration of habitats, hunting, predation, diseases, but also climate change, which mainly disrupts the northern regions.
Sightings can happen from the heights of the Gaspésie National Park, as long as you are as discreet as possible. Having the chance to observe this species evolve in its natural environment is an unforgettable experience. But remember, irreproachable respect is required for this species on the verge of extinction.
If you wish to observe and photograph the Woodland Caribou, join us on our ethical nature photo tour to Gaspésie.
Guide Salva Fauna
WOODING, F.H. Les mammifères sauvages du Canada, La Prairie (Québec), Éditions Marcel Broquet, 1984, p. 38–45.
Inventaire National du Patrimoine Naturel (INPN), Rangifer tarandus (Linnaeus, 1758), statuts. Site web : inpn.mnhn.fr/espece/cd_nom/61064 (consulté le 03/04/2019).
Fédération Canadienne de la Faune, Faune et Flore du Pays, le Caribou. Site web : www.hww.ca/fr/faune/mammiferes/le-caribou.html (consulté le 03/04/2019).
Forêt, Faune et Parcs Québec, liste des espèces faunistiques menacées ou vulnérables au Québec. Site web: www3.mffp.gouv.qc.ca/faune/especes/menacees/fiche.asp?noEsp=53 (consulté le 03/04/2019).
« Le Caribou de la Gaspésie pourrait disparaître d’ici quelques années », Alexandre Shields. Site internet : www.Ledevoir.com, 13 février 2018 (consulté le 03/04/2019).