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Biology

Peary caribou are found in small groups throughout the year and graze while on the move. They selectively feed on the patchy distribution of high quality food plants throughout the year (7). In the summer they forage in moist areas near river valley slopes and upland plains, feeding on willow, herbs, sedges and grasses (3)(6). Unlike other caribou this species does not eat much lichen, because it is rarely available (6). To obtain food in the winter they dig feeding craters in the snow by pawing with their broad hooves down to the vegetation below (3). Large and concave, the hooves splay widely to support this mammal in the snow, and function as efficient scoops when the caribou is uncovering the vegetation (7). The sharp edges of the hooves also give this mammal a firm footing on ice or smooth rock. Caribou are excellent swimmers when their hooves also function as paddles (7).  Group size is strongly influenced by the overall density of a population. In the winter the Peary caribou can be found in groups of up to five, in pairs, or even as solitary individuals, while in the summer months of July to August after the calving period, they occur in larger groups of five to ten individuals (8). Females migrate to small islands in the spring for calving, after a gestation period of 8 months, and are capable of bearing one offspring annually in June (5)(8). However this depends on whether they can build up adequate fat reserves over the summer to breed in mid-October (8).

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Source: ARKive

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