Saturday, February 16, 2019

Being Caribou - Book Review

Being Caribou - Five Months on Foot with a Caribou Herd by Karsten Heuer is one of the books that I wanted to read this year that is focused on animals and nature.

This is a short book that is heavy on photos which I enjoyed. I learned a lot about this particular caribou herd of more than 100,000 that treks thousands of miles each year in Alaska. The caribou go through icy rivers, high mountain ranges, and passes that are snow-covered.

They come across grizzly bears, human hunters, insects, and wolves. However, out of all of these predators, the worst one, it seems, are millions of bloodthirsty mosquitos and biting flies. Once the insects hatch in the spring, the caribou make a fast-retreat back to their summer region.

The reason for this long migration to thee Arctic National Wildlife Refuge each year is that the females give birth to their babies. The peacefulness of the area and absence of the insects in the early-Spring helps the calves gain strength and prepare for a challenging year ahead.

This is the only area in the caribou's range where a certain kind of protein-rich cotton grass grows. The mothers, who are trying to produce milk for the calves, depend on this grass.

The author and his wife are the only humans to become part of this caribou herd. They followed them, set up their tent, and slept in the same area that the caribou lived. It gave them - as well as the reader - insight into the lives of these fascinating animals.

One thing that was amazing about the calves is that within five minutes of being born, a calf can take its first steps. Within 30 minutes, it walks smoothly. But the end of its first day, it can run, jump, and play with the other calves.

Another thing I learned was that the calves and mothers play games together to form a strong bond. The mothers grunt and the calves bleat over about a ten-day period; and they practice those sounds often so that they know one another. How well they learn and respond to each other's calls will determine whether the calves survive.

I wish there were more books written like this about different wild animals. Learning about them in their environment and not harming them lifts my spirits.

1 comment:

Rita said...

That sounds like a fascinating read. And, like you, it is so wonderful that they traveled with the herd and never harmed them...just took photos and learned about them. Wow! :)