Dawson’s Caribou

RBCM 1484
Scientific Name:
Rangifer tarandus dawsoni

This taxidermy mount of a Dawson’s Caribou, Rangifer tarandus dawsoni is one of only five specimens in the world. All are at the Royal BC Museum. Dawson’s Caribou was named after G.M. Dawson of the Geological Survey of Canada, who was first to describe the animal. They were known only from the plateau around Virago Sound on the northern end of Graham Island, and were rarely seen. Three of the last four sighted were shot in 1908. All our specimens were collected between 1882 and 1908.

Our most complete specimen, now a taxidermy mount, was from among those last few. The antlers are poorly developed and strangely shaped, suggesting the specimen is female. Its pale grey colour is thought to be an artefact of museum preservation since the animals appeared darker in the 1908 photos. A male Dawson’s Caribou with a full set of antlers was photographed in 1908 (RBCM 1486).

Caribou tracks were found as recently as 1935, but given a caribou’s lifespan, we assume Dawson’s Caribou went extinct before then. The BC Archives has photos of the hunters who shot the last few Dawson’s Caribou, standing alongside their quarry.

This object selected by Dr. Gavin Hanke. View Profile »