Caribou are travelin’ fools. They’re extremely flighty animals—restless, tireless, fast, and graceful. Run and eat, run and eat is pretty much all they do—oh, yeah, and reproduce. Reindeer, although of the same species, are smaller and often domesticated.
Caribou are peaceful critters, and they’ll outrun and outdistance their predators, mostly wolves, rather than fight. They like to travel in groups, unlike moose, which are loners. And they cover 10 times as much territory.
Their herding and migrating imperatives are similar to those of the plains bison; they gather in large numbers and think nothing of running 50 miles, almost on a lark.
Caribou are extremely well adapted to their winter environment. They have huge nasal passages and respiratory systems in order to breathe the bitterly cold winter air. Thick fur covers almost every inch of their bodies; the fur itself is protected by large, hollow, oily guard hairs. This tends to make caribou look much larger than they really are; a good-sized bull weighs 400–500 pounds, a cow about half that.
Caribou have the richest milk in the animal kingdom: It’s 20 percent fat. They’ve also got huge prancing hooves, immortalized in the Santa Claus myth, which are excellent for running, swimming, disco dancing, and pawing at the snow to uncover the moss and lichens on which they subsist all through the harsh Arctic winter. The word caribou comes from the Maine Algonquian dialect and means “scraping hooves.”
The caribou is the only member of the deer family whose females grow antlers. Babies are on their feet and nursing within an hour of birth, and at one week they can run 20 miles. If they can’t, they’ll most likely die, since the herd won’t wait. But this helps to keep the herd healthy, controls population growth, and provides food for the carnivores.
Native Alaskans are among the caribou’s natural predators. Historically, Native Alaskans ate the meat raw, roasted, and stewed. They ate all the organs, even the half-digested greens from the stomach. The little gobs of fat from behind the eyes were considered a delicacy. They used almost exclusively caribou hide for clothes, rugs, blankets, and tents. The leg skins were used to make mukluks; the long strands of stringy sinew provided sewing thread.
Nearly 1 million caribou roam across Alaska , with the largest herds in the Arctic, including within the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Caribou are commonly seen within Denali National Park` and Preserve  and along Interior  and Southcentral Alaskan roads, including the Glenn Highway near Eureka, the Alaska Highway east of Tok, the Denali Highway , the Dalton Highway, and the Richardson Highway near Paxson.