Alaskans like to ask visitors “What’s the difference between a caribou and a reindeer?” The visitors talk about antlers, size, color, all kinds of possible differences until they give up.
“Well,” a good Alaskan will say, “They’re the same except caribou are wild and reindeer are domesticated plus, you know, reindeer can fly.” So cute. We probably heard it ten times in as many days during our time in Alaska.
It wasn’t until we got to Nome that the real difference was revealed to us.
Caribou can steal reindeer.
Think on that for a minute. Caribou can steal reindeer and they do, often. So when caribou are sighted, reindeer herders try to move their animals to pens until after the caribou leave. And often, they are too late and they lose reindeer which is a problem because they aren’t keeping them as pets, you know.
What’s the dynamic of that, I wanted to ask but didn’t. Are the reindeer stupid or smart? Are the caribou aware of what they are doing or oblivious? Who is the actor and who is the reactor? Is it the reindeer’s yearning to roam or the caribou’s need for followers that sparks the theft?
None of the answers, though, would be as interesting as the one fact unexplained: Caribou can steal reindeer. Think on that for a minute.
More info on this amazing animal fact can be found here.