Forces of Change

Feeling the Heat

Will warmer temperatures threaten caribou populations? It depends on the types of change and how quickly they occur. However, one sub-species of caribou, the Peary, already is at risk of extinction.

Why? Major die-offs are likely related to warmer weather: Deep snow and ice, for example, can make it nearly impossible for caribou to get to food.

The number of Peary caribou on Canada’s Arctic islands plunged from 26,000 in 1961 to 1,000 in 1997. In response, some indigenous communities have voluntarily limited hunting the Peary, but population declines continue.

Peary caribou (Rangifier tarandus pearyi) live in some of the Arctic’s harshest environments. They are smaller than other caribou sub-species and have shorter, broader hooves, and a thicker coat.
Photo © David L. Mech