Wildlife Wednesday: Reindeer

Wildlife Wednesday: Reindeer

This Wildlife Wednesday we learn about Santa’s favourite animal – the reindeer.

This Wildlife Wednesday we learn about Santa’s favourite animal—the reindeer.

Habitat: northern Canada and Alaska, northern Asia, northern Europe, and Greenland

Reindeer trivia

  • Reindeer versus caribou—what’s the difference? There are actually some differences between the two, and they are classified as two subspecies. Reindeer are semi-domesticated, while caribou are wild. Caribou migrate longer distances, and reindeer are more sedentary, short, and stout, with thicker fur.
  • Their classification also has to with their range: reindeer live in areas of Europe (such as northern Finland, Norway, Sweden and Russia), while caribou live in North America.
  • Reindeer have been domesticated for a very long time—even before Santa was using reindeer, people of northern Eurasia were using reindeer to pull sleds and carry packs as far back as 7,000 years ago.
  • Female reindeer grow antlers as well as the males.
  • Reindeer are very social animals and travel in packs.
  • These members of the deer family are built for the extreme cold! Reindeer’s furry, sturdy hooves can act as snowshoes and also paddles, so they can navigate both the snowy terrain as well as the waterways. They also have a specialized nose that warms incoming air.

Why they’re threatened
Although the reindeer is not listed as endangered or threatened, Rudolph’s Canadian cousin is currently under threat. Caribou living in Northern Alberta are threatened by the oil sands development, which is changing tracts of wilderness where the caribou live. The animals require vast stretches of habitat to survive. The federal government has been asked to take action and abide by its own Species At Risk Act (SARA); however, since environmental groups have criticized the government’s responses to SARA, perhaps only time will tell how the Alberta caribou will fare.

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