Characteristics of Chukotka breed of reindeer introduced to the Seward Peninsula, Alaska
Seward Peninsula Reindeer, tarandus tarandus, is the domesticated “reindeer” subspecies. Different R. t. tarandus varieties have been developed in Asia and Russia to suit local conditions and human needs, such as transportation milk and meat. Chukotka the most recent (last) breed developed around 1000 AD.
Characteristics of breed:
- Developed primarily for meat and hide production not as a draft or pack animal.
- Carcasses noted for their high ratio of muscle tissue to bone, the meatiness of the carcasses. Very fine muscle fibers.
- Rate of fat deposition and percentage of carcass is higher than in other breeds.
- Large fat deposits enables animals to survive long periods of poor foraging conditions during winter.
- Calving occurs 15-20 days earlier than in other breeds.
- Calf growth rate is very high and reach maturity at a young age. Calves in good body condition may go into estrus and conceive.
- Chukotka reindeer are comparatively resistant to necrobacillosis and pulmonary diseases and more easily endure insect harassment.
- Most Chukchi herding was conducted on foot so animals with a strong herding instinct and weak migratory behavior were selected for cultivation.
- As a result exhibit a high degree of site-fidelity even if local areas become overgrazed.
Characteristics of Alaskan Caribou
Teshekpuk Caribou in the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska. Photo by Bob WickCaribou (Rangifer tarandus) have large, concave hoofs that spread widely to support the animal in snow and soft tundra. The feet also function as paddles when caribou swim. Caribou are the only member of the deer family (Cervidae) in which both sexes grow antlers. Antlers of adult bulls are large and massive; those of adult cows are much shorter and are usually more slender and irregular.
In late fall, caribou are clove-brown with a white neck, rump, and feet and often have a white flank stripe. Weights of adult bulls average 350-400 pounds (159-182 kg). Mature females average 175-225 pounds (80-120 kg). Caribou in northern and southwestern Alaska are generally smaller than caribou in the Interior and in southern parts of the state.
Caribou in Alaska are distributed in 32 herds or populations and include 7 subspecies. A herd uses a distinct calving area that is separate from the calving area of other herds, but different herds may mix on winter ranges.
Learn more about Alaska's Caribou from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game Caribou Page.