Rangifer tarandus Linnaeus
|Description: This caribou is mostly represented at Big Brook by its shed antlers. They are similar to white tail deer antlers except the main branch is right at the base. Caribou antlers have a characteristic teardrop cross-section and the base is rounded. Caribou antler sections are usually between 5 to 15 cm (about 2 to 6 in) long from the base but some larger sections have been recovered.
Other skeletal material undoubtedly exists, but to date, there has been none found. They may be too similar to modern day deer for most people to tell the difference.
Commonality: The antlers from the caribou are rare.
Similar fossils: These antlers can be confused with white tail deer antlers. Caribou antlers branch right after the base while white tail deer antlers do not. They may also be confused the concretions in the stream but these lack the definite shape.
Size: These smaller caribou would have been about 2.5 meters (about 8.25 feet) long and about 1.25 meters (about 4 feet) tall at the shoulders.
Notes: The coldest episodes of the Pleistocene represent the only period which the cold adapted caribou were in New Jersey. The caribou, as they do now, roamed in large herds on the grasslands of the tundra and the open spruce forests, feeding on grasses and other foliage. Most of the remains found in New Jersey are smaller than the modem caribou in Canada, possibly environmentally stunted by the cold. The last episode in which caribou could have occupied this area would have been around 18000 BC, the point at which the last glacier reached its greatest extent south. If the Empire State Building had been standing at this time, all but the tip would be buried under the ice flow. Two antler sections that were found in New Jersey are presently on display in the New Jersey State Museum.
Ed Otte Specimen