Caribou and the Barren Lands

Reviewed: August 29, 2005
By: George Calef
Publisher: Firefly / Canadian Arctic Resources Committee
176 pages, $24.95

This Governor General’s Award winning book provides a comprehensive look at a subject that keeps turning up in the news on a regular basis: the migration of caribou. George Calef, a biologist and photographer, has provided us with a wide-screen look at caribou and their habitat all across the north.

The book is divided into the five seasons of the deer, “calving” slipping in there between spring and summer, and with that addition, Calef takes us through a series of illustrated essays that show the annual cycles of several different herds, intermixed with human interactions. There’s a sequence with a hunter from Old Crow in the autumn section, for instance.

There’s a section at the end of the book which attempts to put the whole ecosystem balancing act into perspective, assuming that humans are as much a part to that as anything else out there. To my surprise, this section contains a reasoned argument in favour of wolf culls (reductions, not eliminations) and takes on the perception that wolves are just there to thin the herd of the old and infirm, a viewpoint that has pretty much become gospel since the days when Farley Mowat wrote it in Never Cry Wolf.

The key thing about this book is the pictures, which I enjoyed immensely. There are some tremendous images here, pictures to enjoy and to make you think.