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SANDPOINT, Idaho -- Caribou share similar features around the world, including branching antlers, stocky bodies and snowshoe-like hooves.

But caribou in the Selkirk Mountains of northern Idaho, northeast Washington and British Columbia have a trait that sets them apart from other caribou. When winter snow sets in, they head to ridge tops, where they spend the winter eating lichens that grow on 250-year-old spruce trees. Other caribou stay in the valleys.

The Spokesman-Review reports that because of that behavior, the South Selkirk caribou herd deserves protection as a distinct population under the Endangered Species Act.

Officials for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service made that point Wednesday at an open house in Sandpoint, Idaho.

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