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Caribou Foes: Natural Predators in the Wilderness

As in all of nature the food chain prevails. Animals in the wild must eat and be eaten for natural life cycles to continue. Whether plants or animals, each creature is reliant on part of the food chain to survive.

Grizzly bear and caribou carcass
credit Being Caribou

The caribou are herbivores; they rely on plants (sometimes called "biomass" by scientists) as the food that sustains them. Just as plants are necessary for caribou to live, there are animals who are carnivors (meat eaters) or omnivores (eat both plants and meat) that rely on the caribou for their sustanence. And as you will find out, there are some "micro-predators," really tiny animals - insects - that also are involved.

Each season the caribou face their foes. As the colder winter arrives the caribou leave the coastal plain heading south into the shelter of the mountain ranges. The grizzlies will be hybernating and offer no threat. As temperatures warm up and the caribou migrate back north to the calving grounds in the coastal region of their range things become more trecherous as there are many hungry predators waiting for them.

Who Are These Foes?

  • Golden eagles who are non-nesting sub-adults are the most important predator of the calves on the calving grounds.They kill the calves with their talons.
  • Wolves can be an important predator of adult caribou in the winter.
  • Grizzly bears are found on both the summer and winter ranges of the Porcupine caribou.
  • Wolverine are capable of killing a newborn calf or a cow giving birth. They also will take a sick or dying caribou.
  • caribou_KHeuer26
    Micro-predators can also make life miserable for humans!
    credit Allison Heuer
    Blood-sucking insects are often called "micro-predators." Both mosquitoes and black flies bite persistantly and can prevent caribou from feeding, calves from nursing and even cause injuries by caribou rushing wildly about.
  • Foxes, ravens, owls,haegars and hawks are other carrion eaters or scavengers that feed on caribou kills.
  • Native peoples have relied on caribou for centuries to supply them with the food they need to survive. Respect for strict hunting laws allow them to manage the herd.

Journaling Questions

  1. What kinds of advantages do the caribou have over their predators?
  2. Even though the coastal plain is home to many of the caribou predators it also offers some advantages for them. What would the coastal plain offer in the way of protection?