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Caribou At Atigun Pass

Caribou Atigun Pass Dalton Highway winter - Photo (c) Laurent Dick - Wild Alaska Travel
A small group of caribou feeds along a steep hillside near Atiun Pass in the Brooks Range. Caribou have developed some unique physiological adaptations in their hooves. In the summer, when the tundra is soft and wet, their footpads become sponge-like and provide extra traction. In the winter, the pads shrink and tighten, exposing the rim of the hoof, which cuts into the iceĀ  and crusted snow to keep it from slipping. This also enables them to dig down, an activity known as “cratering” through the snow to their favorite food, a lichen known as reindeer moos.