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My national animal: the noble caribou Add to ...

In the days leading up to Canada Day, The Globe is teaming up with Facebook for an unscientific survey of Canadians about what our true national symbols should be. We've also asked a few Canadians to share their picks. Today, author Joseph Boyden makes his pitch.

Be it resolved that the caribou should be our national animal.

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And let it make no difference should said caribou represent any one of the three major subspecies-Peary of the far north, Barren Ground of the central north, or Woodland of the low north - for they all share unique and resilient qualities befitting a country that is in itself so unique and resilient.

Agree or disagree? Is the caribou really Canada's national animal?

Speaking to the resilience of the caribou, this is an animal that can cover one hundred kilometers of the toughest and most frigid terrain imaginable in a single day, pawing through snowdrift and ice for the meager yet nourishing lichen in winter, fording vast rivers and mosquito-plagued tundra in summer.

Still, in every life upon this earth there will always be predators. The world of the caribou contains its enemies too; its sinewy flanks are the mouthwatering awe of polar bear, grizzly, wolf, lynx, and even the eagle when it spies from above the newborn calf.

Some say the animal's greatest predator is the human race, but it isn't through the most obvious relationship between hunter and hunted. Rather, it is through our growing hunger for the earth's bounty.

The creation of pipelines that cut through and cut off traditional migration routes, the encroachment of construction on sensitive feeding grounds, and the continued temperature rise that threatens to topple the Arctic ice into a warming sea might very well account for the drastic drop in caribou populations all across the north.

And so let these resilient beasts be a reminder to us all that there's great irony in the fact that we make these animals' already tough lives much tougher in our constant hunger to fill our own lives with more ease.

We asked Canadians to send us their Facebook photos of their favourite places in Canada. Here are our editors' picks, from Tofino to Twillingate

While gender equality might not be a phrase commonly considered when we speak of the natural world, a fascinating fact exists when we consider the mighty caribou: it is the only member of the deer family in which both male and female grow antlers. If this fact alone doesn't impress you, imagine yourself carrying a weight equal to your thighbones fused to your forehead as you run through said tundra or away from said polar bear.

Perhaps the caribou's greatest strength is its desire to gather in massive herds after the rut in autumn and to travel en masse through the tough winter months, staying together as one giant entity, one huge family, until the miracle that happens on the birthing grounds in late spring allows them to break off into smaller families for the pleasant months of summer.

The Globe is teaming up with Facebook to ask Canadians about what symbolizes Canada

Caribou innately understand that strength exists in numbers, that they are better protected from hungry predators in the fall, the killing cold in winter, and the bloodsucking mosquito hordes that awake in the spring. The caribou recognizes, most importantly, that the good of the group, for much of the year, far outweighs the needs of the individual.

What an incredible lesson for humans, if only we allow ourselves, for just a moment, to believe we can actually learn something from an animal so perfectly suited to its environment.

And no, it cannot go without mention that caribou is absolutely delicious in a stew with braised carrots, potatoes, onion, red wine, and perhaps half a bottle of Guinness beer. Is there anything more sublime than to be allowed to consume a tiny part of the spirit of this animal, the spirit of the North, the spirit of this country? It is only just, then, only right, that at the moment of eating, to offer up our hearty thanks to one so resilient and unique.

Joseph Boyden is an award-winning novelist whose heart is in the north no matter how far south he sometimes resides.

Agree? Disagree? Vote online and have your say at facebook.com/facebookcanada

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