Q:

What do caribou eat?

A:

Quick Answer

According to About.com, caribou, or reindeer as they are commonly called, are considered to be a grazing herbivore, and their diet mainly consists of the leaves of willow and birch trees, grasses, sedges and lichen. Reindeer moss, in particular, is a common dietary staple.

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What do caribou eat?
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Full Answer

The caribou's diet changes according to the season. Lichen is the caribou's primary winter food source. Research suggests caribou occasionally eat fish, such as arctic char, small rodents, including lemmings, and bird eggs during spring when sustenance is not always abundantly available. During one research project, a specific group of reindeer was observed eating mushrooms with great enthusiasm during the late summer.

Caribou have a four-chambered stomach, which makes them a ruminant. Besides some gastropods, they are the only animals to have been found with the enzyme lichenase, which is used to break down lichenin to glucose. Because of this, caribou are the only large mammal capable of metabolizing lichen.

Caribou have hooves that change according to the season. During winter, their hooves become denser, which allows them to dig through the snow to access lichen. Their hooves become softer and more sponge-like during the summer, which allows them to walk comfortably on the thawed tundra ground.

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Related Questions

  • Q:

    What are some interesting facts about deer?

    A:

    Dozens of species of deer exist, including moose and reindeer. Deer live in a variety of habitats, and they can run and jump at great speeds, leaping up to 30 feet in a single bound.

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  • Q:

    What is the difference between reindeer and deer?

    A:

    White-tailed deer live in meadows and forests, and they have poor adaptations for snow, whereas reindeer live in cold areas and have special split hooves for walking on ice and snow. Both male and female reindeer also have antlers. In contrast, only the male of the species for White-tailed deer have antlers.

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  • Q:

    What is another name for a reindeer?

    A:

    Caribou is another name for reindeer. These animals are generally referred to as caribou by the people in North America and Greenland and are called reindeer by those living in northern Eurasia.

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  • Q:

    What is a male reindeer called?

    A:

    A male reindeer is called a bull, according to the Smithsonian National Zoological Park. Females are referred to as cows, and babies are calves. Reindeer are domesticated in Europe, but in North America, they roam free and are called caribou.

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