Aggression and Coexistence in Female Caribou
Female caribou (Rangifer tarandus) are highly gregarious, yet there has been little study of the behavioral mechanisms that foster coexistence. Quantifying patterns of aggression between male and female, particularly in the only cervid taxa where both sexes grow antlers, should provide insight into these mechanisms. We asked if patterns of aggression by male and female caribou followed the pattern typically noted in other polygynous cervids, in which males display higher frequencies and intensity of aggression. From June to August in 2011 and 2012, we measured the frequency and intensity of aggression across a range of group sizes through focal animal sampling of 170 caribou (64 males and 106 females) on Adak Island in the Aleutian Archipelago, Alaska. Males in same-sex and mixed-sex groups and females in mixed-sex groups had higher frequencies of aggression than females in same-sex groups. Group size did not influence frequency of aggression. Males displayed more intense aggression than females. Frequent aggression in mixed-sex groups probably reflects lower tolerance of males for animals in close proximity. Female caribou were less aggressive and more gregarious than males, as in other polygynous cervid species.