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There are approximately 750,000 wild caribou in Alaska (including some herds that are shared by Alaska and Canada's Yukon Territory). The largest herds (as of 2011) are the Western Arctic Herd at about 325,000, the Porcupine Caribou Herd at about 169,000, the Central Arctic Herd at 67,000, the Fortymile Herd at 52,000 and the Teshekpuk Herd at about 55,000. Caribou are somewhat cyclic in number, and the timing of declines and increases, and the size to which herds grow is not very predictable. Although overhunting caused some herds to remain low in the past, today, varying weather patterns (climate), population density, predation by wolves and grizzly bears, and disease outbreaks determine whether most herds increase or decrease. Fast Facts

  • Size
    Adult bulls average 350-400 pounds (159-182 kg). Mature females average 175-225 pounds (80-120 kg).
  • Distribution
    Caribou live in the arctic tundra, mountain tundra, and northern forests of North America, Russia, and Scandinavia. The world population is about 5 million. Caribou in Alaska are distributed in 32 herds (or populations). A herd uses a calving area that is separate from the calving areas of other herds, but different herds may mix together on winter ranges.
  • Diet
    Herbivore
  • Predators
    Bears and wolves
  • Reproduction
    One calf
  • Other names
    Domesticated and semi-domesticated caribou are called reindeer.
  • Status
    Healthy
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