Wapusk National Park

Caribou (Rangifer tarandus) are a medium sized member of the cervid, or deer, family. They have a long snout, short tail, and a short, stocky body that conserves heat. Long legs and large hooves help caribou move through deep snow.

Caribou are an essential part of Indigenous culture and the lives of northern communities. In Wapusk National Park, caribou remain interconnected with Indigenous values, beliefs and harvesting practices.

Twelve designatable units of caribou across Canada are recognized by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). The barren-ground and eastern migratory species utilize Wapusk National Park. Both Wapusk National Park and COSEWIC have recommended listing these caribou as threatened and endangered, respectively. Both are recommended for up-listing to Canada's Species at Risk Act.

The eastern migratory caribou unit covers a wide range along the Hudson Bay: from Northern Manitoba, to Northern Quebec and Labrador. This unit is made up of four discrete herds: The Cape Churchill, Penn Island, Leaf River and George River herds. Of the four, the Cape Churchill herd has been identified as utilizing Wapusk National Park with an estimated 3,000 individuals. This herd is known to spend winter around Wapusk's southwestern border, in the northern edge of the boreal forest. They spend the summer in the northern portion of Wapusk National Park, near Cape Churchill. The herd migrates over 200 kilometres annually from its summer calving grounds on the tundra of Wapusk, to the boreal forest.

Fun facts
  • Both male and female caribou grow antlers, though the female antlers are much smaller.
  • Caribou herds are normally named after the area they calve in.
  • Caribou are featured on the Canadian 25-cent coin.
  • Caribou and reindeer are actually the same species!

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