The Largest Caribou Herd in North America Is On the March

Watch in 360 as a herd of female caribou walk hundreds of kilometres north to have their calves in one of the most remote parts of northern Quebec.

This is a woman's march of an altogether different kind that happens in northern Canada each spring.

These female caribou — part of North America's largest herd — travel from the boreal forest of Quebec to the tundra in Nunavik to give birth, averaging about 20 kilometres a day.

The females and their yearling calves head north several weeks before the males, trudging through the snow using their scoop-shaped hooves to dig for lichen clinging to rocks and shrubs buried beneath the snow. They have special bacteria in their gut to help them digest it and are the only species to use lichen as a food source.

There aren't many denning sites in the tundra's permafrost for predators like wolves. At the end of their journey in early June, the moms and calves will feed on the abundant grasses and plants they find there. An adult caribou can eat more than 5 kilograms of food a day.

The Wild Canadian Year crew caught up with the herd in March near Kuujjuarapik, taking a helicopter over hundreds of kilometres to reach this remote, northern spot. Filmmaker Justin Maguire: "You find yourself in another world. It’s a landscape of quietness and caribou tracks – a vast expanse of compacted snow formed by thousands of moving animals."

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They deployed their 360 camera ahead of the herd to and waited over an hour for the caribou to pass by. "We watched hopefully. After all our efforts, it would still take a bit of luck to get a shot. And then – success! The migrating caribou passed right by the 360-camera, seemingly inquisitive of this foreign arrival in their land.”

The result? Intimate never-seen-before footage of the herd as they wandered by. 

Click play on the video above to watch.

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