The habi­tat of the rein­deer

From the bit­ter-cold bliz­zards of the Arc­tic to the blis­ter­ing heat of the sum­mer tun­dra, rein­deer live and mi­grate through a va­ri­ety habi­tats

World of Animals - - All About Reindeer -

Rein­deer can be found across the North­ern Hemi­sphere, in places as far rang­ing as Canada and Mon­go­lia. Here, they live and for­age in herds in the Arc­tic, tun­dra, bo­real for­est and moun­tain­ous re­gions, feed­ing on moss and lichen. Most sub­species of rein­deer are sea­sonal mi­grants, apart from the bo­real wood­land cari­bou, which are mostly seden­tary. They move be­tween win­ter ranges, calv­ing grounds and sum­mer ranges in or­der to find food, give birth to young and sur­vive the var­ied con­di­tions of the sea­sons. When food be­comes scarce dur­ing win­ter the herd fol­lows the food sources south, some­times trav­el­ling 1,000 kilo­me­tres (621 miles). In fact, the North Amer­i­can por­cu­pine cari­bou trav­els up to 2,414 kilo­me­tres (1,500 miles) in a year, ven­tur­ing fur­ther than any other mi­grat­ing ter­res­trial mam­mal. This means rein­deer have to be well adapted to sur­vive the Arc­tic chill and the sum­mers of the tun­dra, which can reach 38 de­grees Cel­sius (100.4 de­grees Fahren­heit). But they do not make these epic jour­neys alone.

Rein­deer love a crowd as there is safety in num­bers, and they spend their lives with their herd. They travel, feed and rest to­gether, with herd sizes rang­ing from ten to sev­eral hun­dred. Dur­ing the spring, as they pre­pare for their mi­gra­tion, they form su­per herds that can con­tain be­tween 50,000 and 500,000 rein­deer, al­though the Taymyr herd of Siberian tun­dra rein­deer in Rus­sia con­tains up to 1 mil­lion (a pop­u­la­tion now in de­cline due to poach­ing) and is the largest wild rein­deer herd in the world.

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