Hey gang, we’ve arrived at the caribou habitat at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center.
To clarify, reindeer and caribou are the same animals. Caribou keep the term “caribou” simply in reference to being “wild,” and not domesticated. Giving the domestic counterparts the name “reindeer” is specific to Alaska.
A good way to think of caribou vs reindeer is to think long distance runner’s vs couch potatoes. Reindeer are not migrating thousands of miles whereas caribou are constantly on the move.
As with reindeer, caribou have all the same attributes, even down to coat pattern and color. Both males and females will grow and shed their antlers. This makes them the only animals in the cervid, or deer, family with this capability. However, you can still typically tell males and females apart from a distance due to size of the rack. Females grow a smaller set, not as heavy on their heads since they use their antlers for differing purposes: food, defense, and protection of young. Males grow large, robust, and heavy racks to not only impress the ladies, but also to fend off fellow males for breeding rights. As soon as the rutting season is over they will shed their large antlers to not waste energy carrying them around through the long winter months.
Another interesting fact about caribou: they out populate people in the state of Alaska 1.5 to 1.