On today’s date in 1984, rising water levels proved fatal for 10,000 caribou, who drowned while their herd was crossing Northern Quebec’s Caniapiscau River while moving to winter pasture.
The following week, on Oct. 4, 1984, the New York Times reported Quebec officials estimated “at least 10,000 caribous had drowned and that the final figure could be as high as 22,000.”
The caribou has graced Canada’s 25-cent coin for nearly 80 years, dating back to 1936, when a change of sovereigns prompted the Canadian government to alter its coins’ reverse designs as well.
According to representatives from the Royal Canadian Mint, the caribou design created by Canadian artist Emanuel Hahn was first used in 1937. It has since been temporarily changed for other commemorations, including that of Canada’s centennial in 1967; for the centennial of the North West Mounted Police in 1973; for Canada’s 125th birthday in 1992; for the Millennium coin program in 1999 and 2000; and for Canada Day in 2002.
The current Canadian 25-cent coins have a weight of 4.4 grams, a 23.88-mm diameter, a 1.58-mm thickness, and are composed of 94 per cent steel, 3.8 per cent copper and 2.2 per cent nickel plating.
In 2014, the Mint commemorated the woodland caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou) on a $20 Fine silver coin. Designed by Canadian artist Trevor Tennant, this coin features a full-colour caribou set in an engraved mountain landscape. It has a mintage of 8,500, a weight of 31.39 grams and a 38-mm diameter.
In 2013, Tennant also designed a one-kilogram Fine silver coin featuring the caribou. This coin, which depicts a male and female caribou standing against the backdrop of the Canadian Arctic, has a limited mintage of 500, a face value of $250 and a 102.1-mm diameter.
A one-kilogram pure gold coin – this with a a limited mintage of 20, a face value of $2,500 and a diameter of 101.6 mm – was also designed by Tennant and released by the Mint.
Also in 2013, the Mint released a $10 Fine silver coin depicting a male caribou set against the rugged terrain of the Canadian North. This coin has a weight of 15.87 grams, a 34-mm diameter and a mintage of 40,000.
Lastly, in 2013, the Mint also issued a $5 pure gold coin. This coin, also designed by Leduc, displays a portrait of the neck, face, and antlers of a male caribou. It has a mintage of 4,000, a weight of 3.13 grams and a 16-mm diameter.