Velvet Free

Caribou are the fourth largest mammal in Denali National Park, after moose and bears (brown and black). You can usually spot them out on the tundra in small herds. Unlike the famous Porcupine caribou that migrates over 1500 miles per year (2400 km), the Denali herd stays almost entirely within the park boundary. However, there are exceptions, like when the herd left the park after a snowstorm to travel 140 miles, just northeast of Fairbanks [Population Dynamics of the Denali Caribou Herd]. The Denali herd doesn’t tend to congregate in large numbers, either. I’ve personally seen herds of about 30 in the park, but never larger. Most often, I will see between two and ten in a given area.

Caribou typically shed their antlers in mid-winter. In this photo (early fall), the caribou’s antlers are bony, but when they are growing in the spring and summer, they are covered in a fleshy velvet. These cycles and others related to caribou have been used by Inuit to name months of the year. For the Igloolik Inuit in Canada, amiraijaut means “when velvet falls off caribou antlers”, and marks that time in the year in early fall (late August, early September) [Tuktu-Caribou].

CameraNikon NIKON D7100 (Current model NIKON D7500)
LensNikon 200-500mm f/5.6E ED AF-S VR
Focal Length200.0 mm (300.0 mm in 35mm)
Exposure Time0.002s (1/500)

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