Reindeer – Life in hostile and cold environments
The reindeer ( caribou) is a medium-sized member of the deer family. Reindeer are strong runners and very good swimmers. This deer is found in Arctic tundra, forests, and mountains in Russia, Northern China, Canada, Alaska, and Scandinavia. Some reindeer migrate in huge herds from the coastal Arctic to the tundra. Reindeer have a life span of about 10 years in the wild. Reindeer were domesticated in northern Eurasia roughly 2,000 years ago.
Today, reindeer are herded by many European and Asian Arctic people. The reindeer is about 4 feet (1.2 m) tall at the shoulder and is about 6 feet (1.8 m) long. Unlike most other types of deer, both bulls (males) and cows (females) have antlers. The antlers are shed each year and re grow. Reindeer have very wide hooves, a broad muzzle, and thick brown fur. The thick fur traps air, which insulates the reindeer from the cold and helps the reindeer float in water. The reindeer is an herbivore (a plant-eater) who spends most of the day eating. During the winter, reindeer eat lichens and moss; in warmer months, they also eat leaves and herbs.
Reindeer are herbivores. This means that they only eat plants and do not eat other animals. These animals spend the better part of their days eating. During the warmer months of the year, reindeer often eat herbs and leaves. When the weather is cold, they eat moss and lichens. Reindeer also eat grass. On occasion, evidence shows that reindeer may feed on arctic char, lemmings, and bird eggs. Some also eat mushrooms during the late summer. Reindeer are almost always found in taiga and tundra
They were originally found in Scandinavia, Russia, Northern China, Eastern Europe, and Mongolia. In North America, they are found in Alaska, and from Maine to Washington in the northern conterminous United States. They can also be found in Canada. They may also be found, though sometimes not many, in Greenland, Norway, Siberia, Finland, Scotland, South Georgia, and Iceland. Populations have fluctuated throughout history, but several different herds are reducing across their range.
Migratory, northern reindeer and caribou are reducing due to climate change. Non-migratory, sedentary herds are reducing due to their habitat being affected by industrial disturbance. Reindeer mate from around late September to around the early part of November. Males battle each other to get to the females. They do this by trying to push each other away after locking antlers.
The dominant males will gather nearly 15 to 20 females that they will mate with. During this time, males lose most of their body reserves because they stop eating. During the following May or June, calves may be born. Females usually give birth to one or two babies per litter. It takes about 45 days for these calves to start foraging and grazing. However, they will remain feeding from their mother until around the following autumn, when they are able to be independent from their mother.
In addition to the basic reindeer facts, there are other facts that are interesting about this animal. The broad hooves that reindeer have act like snowshoes allowing them to easily make their way through snow and ice. During the winter, reindeer shed their antlers. The term “herd” is used to describe a group of reindeer. Bellowing is the sound reindeer make. Male reindeer are usually solitary, while females tend to group themselves into herds. However, during September, males will join herds for what is known as the rutting season.