Reindeer description: habitat, food, lifestyle


As representatives of the fauna of the Far North, more than half of the 15 subspecies of reindeer inhabit the Arctic tundra (located closer to the pole than the northern forest belt), as well as on many islands in the Arctic. Some subspecies also inhabit the forests of Finland and Siberia.

Average weight: from 60 to 300 kg.

Medium height: from 160 to 200 cm in length, tail size - 14-20 cm, height of an individual - from 80 to 150 cm.
Reindeer females are smaller than males, the difference in size varies with each subspecies, the size of domesticated individuals exceed the wild ones, but they have shorter legs.

Marriage period: It takes place in late September - early November and is characterized by the rivalry of males for the attention of females. In most cases, two males determine which of them is stronger, and who is weaker, with gazes at a distance, in cases where both consider themselves to be the strongest, a struggle begins - grappling with horns, the males push each other until one of them surrenders . In the mating season, a strong male can mate with 15-20 females. Because of the constant clashes with other males, dominant males have little time to search for food, and they spend most of their stocks. Males show a similar level of dominance only once in their lives, when they reach the peak of their strength - this usually happens at 6 years.

Baby reindeer are born between May and June. The first days of their life, the deer are under the supervision of the mother, and after about a month and a half they begin to graze on their own, while still eating mother's milk. This continues for several more months.

Estimated population size: - 1 million worldwide with cyclical growth and decline in numbers, which are repeated every 40-60 years.

Nutrition: In the summer months, reindeer feed on reeds, grass, ferns and moss. They also eat the shoots and leaves of low-growing trees, and especially love the leaves of willow and birch. From time to time there are carnivores, eating lemming, bird eggs and arctic charr (a kind of fish).
In the winter months, reindeer food is almost entirely made up of lichens and fungi, which they dig out from under the snow and ice with the help of horns and hoofs. Deer, unlike other mammals, have a unique enzyme (lichenase) that breaks down lichens and releases glucose contained in them.
Conservation status of a species: The species is the least threatened.

Habitat: circumpolar regions, including islands.

Enemies: The main threat to reindeer is wolves, who hunt them in packs, especially in winter. In the early months of life, golden eagles, eagles, wolverines and, more rarely, brown and polar bears hunt deer.

In Europe, these animals are called reindeer. And the inhabitants of North America call the wild caribou specimens, and the domesticated - the reindeer.

Reindeer inhabit the regions of the Arctic tundra (cold treeless plain, often weakly drained) and in the forests bordering the southern part of the tundra. They are herbivores and ruminants, that is, they feed on plants that undergo fermentation in the stomach (namely, in the rumen - the largest gastric chamber), then chew again and only after that are digested.
Reindeer live in families (mothers and calves) inside the herd, the size of which depends on the habitat. Individuals living in the tundra, gather in large herds, but in the winter months are divided into several small ones. And the number of reindeer herds living in the forests is about 20-30 individuals year-round.

Where do caribou live? How do they survive?

As representatives of the fauna of the Far North, more than half of the 15 subspecies of reindeer inhabit the Arctic tundra (located closer to the pole than the northern forest belt), as well as on many islands of the Arctic. Some subspecies also inhabit the forests of Finland and Siberia.

Historical habitats of reindeer were regions of Eurasia, located above the 50th parallel of northern latitude. Not so long ago (in 2009) a decrease in the number of reindeer living in the forests was observed, which was allegedly caused by global warming. However, this version turned out to be erroneous; at present, in those regions where the reindeer population had fallen sharply before, their numbers began to grow again, while in the areas considered stable, a decrease in the number of individuals is observed.

The main danger for deer are hunters, the unstable climate in certain regions, as well as the growing number of mining, gas and oil industries, whose workers sometimes go hunting in their spare time.

People began to domesticate reindeer a few thousand years ago. Since deer are hardy and large herbivores, the inhabitants of the circumpolar regions bred them for eating their meat, as well as for use as a transport. Eskimos still hunt deer because of their tasty meat, their hides, horns and bones, from which tools are made. For example, Saami and Nenets still breed reindeer. Unlike cattle, such herds cannot be called fully domesticated - they live on several pastures, through which the Sami and Nenets nomadic routes usually pass. In 1911, 10 reindeers were brought to South Georgia (a sub-Antarctic island) to provide whalers and sealers with food, and by 2014 their number was already 6,600 heads, after which it was decided to reduce this figure ecosystem in general and on the reproduction of birds in particular.

Features of the adaptation of reindeer (caribou) to the environment:

Low ratio of body surface area to its volume (anatomical feature) - Large animals are easier to keep warm, because they retain heat generated during metabolism, and an adult reindeer individual can weigh from 60 to 300 kg.

The bones of the turbinate (anatomical feature) - on the curved thin bones in the nasal part of the skull (an example can be seen in the picture on the right) there are soft tissues with many blood vessels, which warm cold air when breathing, after which it enters the lungs. The cold air and, consequently, the dry air is moistened, and during the exhalation the moisture balance is restored in the nose.

Adapted to different times of the year hoof (anatomical feature). In summer, the soft heel part of the hooves helps to move faster on wet and slippery snow in the tundra, and in winter, sharp edges grow around the hooves, which contributes to movement on hard snow and ice. Also with their help, deer dig snow in search of food.

Ultraviolet vision (physiological feature). More recently, it has been discovered that the vision of reindeer goes beyond the visible radiation spectrum. As is known, snow and ice reflect ultraviolet radiation, while predators, lichens and urine absorb this radiation. A dark spot of urine on light snow or ice tells the animals that predators or reindeer females may be nearby. Due to the peculiarities of their vision, reindeers see wolves as dark silhouettes (even white wool intended for masking does not help predators), especially at night. Deers also see their main food as lichens as dark spots on a light background.

Short summer migration to higher points due to the abundance of blood-sucking insects (behavioral feature). At this time of the year, the deer move in a dense herd, protecting the individuals in the center of the herd from insect bites.

Herd formation (behavioral feature). Gathering in a herd, deer thus protect themselves from predators, which usually catch them one by one. It also provides protection from insect bites in the summer months. The largest herds of reindeer can consist of 50 000 - 500 000 heads.

The process of migration of reindeer (caribou) (behavioral feature). Reindeer in the migration process are more than any other land animal - up to 5,000 km per year. However, some herds prefer not to migrate at all. Migration mainly takes place in the summer when they move to the northern territories in search of large pastures. As a rule, trees practically do not grow on such territories, so it is more difficult to hide from potential predators there. By winter, reindeer go south to forest areas, which provide shelter from severe blizzards and snowstorms.

Horns needed to protect against predators, digging up snow and used during the struggle between males (anatomical feature). Reindeer are the only species of deer, the females and males of which have horns, although they use them for different purposes. Horns consist of bone tissue, they grow and are shed every year - this feature distinguishes reindeer from other animals whose horns consist of keratin (hair and nails consist of it), and therefore are not shed. Males shed their horns at the end of the year (November-December), and females in the spring (this, by the way, proves that all the Santa Claus deer were females, since they still had antlers for Christmas). In winter, females use their horns to dig up snow in search of food, while the males, having more power, use hooves for these purposes. New horns in males begin to grow in February and fully grow back to the mating season. From a practical point of view, many consider horns to be superfluous, but the very fact that deer are able to grow new horns annually, while coping with the enormous stress on metabolism, suggests that these animals are extremely strong and hardy.

Thick hair, keeping warm and allowing to survive even the most severe frosts (anatomical feature). It consists of a soft undercoat and a coarser long coat. Long wool protects reindeer from rain, winds and snowfall. Sturdy, airy fur also allows reindeer to float on the water - which is why they swim better than other reindeer. By winter, reindeer grow a thick undercoat, which usually falls out in the process of molting by the next spring or summer.

How does it look

The deer is a gregarious animal, and its northern species also lives in groups of one or several dozen individuals, like other deer species. They live in the wild in the north of Europe, Asia and America - in the tundra and taiga, on the islands of the Arctic Ocean. In addition, the northern peoples bred them in the household, using horse-drawn transport, a source of meat, fat, milk, hides, bones. Deer Description:

  1. Height at withers - 1-1.5 m, body length - 2 m, weight - 100-200 kg.
  2. Short legs end with wide, dense, round shape, hooves. This allows them to move easily through stony or marshy terrain, and also not to fall into the snow.
  3. Wool - light gray with brown spots in winter and brown in summer. It covers the whole body and reliably protects against cold, because it has a hollow structure. In addition, for the winter, down appears in its undercoat, additionally protecting the animal from wind and frost. The hollow structure of the hair shaft contributes to the fact that the deer is well kept on the water and is able to cross even large rivers.
  4. Thin long horns, with branching at the ends, grow in both males and females. The first throw off them every year at the beginning of winter, the second - after the appearance of deer.

Attention! The presence of female horns and pubescence on the upper lip is a characteristic feature of this species of deer, which distinguishes it from other representatives of deer.

The life of an animal is 25 years. In search of food, deer herds migrate long distances, leaving for the winter from the tundra to the taiga, where there is more feed. From the age of two, they are ready to breed. Females up to 18 years of age are capable of bearing offspring. In October-November, they start marriage games. To attract females, male deer fights, facing rivals with horns. Since females do not allow males for a long time, fights can take place between representatives of both sexes.

After 8 months, the females give birth to one, in rare cases, two deer. The kids are already on the second day ready to follow the mother, and after 3 weeks they grow horns.

Reindeer enemies are wolves, wolverines, brown and white bears, and lynx. But the greatest damage to the deer population is caused by human activities. Deforestation, grazing in the habitats of deer, hunting - all this led to the fact that the deer survived only in remote areas of northern Europe, where there are still areas with virgin nature.

What feeds on

Deer diet depends on the season. In the summer it consists mainly of green vegetation - foliage of shrubs, grass, mosses, berries, mushrooms, algae. In winter, they feed on moss trees - bushy lichens with cladonia, as well as faded grass, digging out hoofs for food from under a layer of snow or ice. In winter, the moss is 60-80% deer diet. The deer hears its smell even under a snow cover 0.5 m deep.

In winter, domesticated deer are fed with hay, silage, and grain flour. In the absence of water, deer in winter, to quench their thirst, eat snow, in addition they are able to drink sea water. Thus, animals maintain the mineral and salt balance in the body. To maintain the salt balance, they also gnaw the discarded horns.

Today, more than 950,000 reindeer live on the territory of the Russian Federation. The ban on shooting and protection of habitats, contributes to the fact that the population of this animal remains under control.

Reindeer description

The body length of the animal is about two meters, its weight is from one hundred to two hundred and twenty kilograms, the height of a mammal is from one hundred and ten to one hundred and forty centimeters. Reindeer, which inhabit the islands of the Arctic Ocean and the tundra, are inferior in size to their southern counterparts living in taiga areas.

Reindeers, both males and females, have very big horns. The long main trunk of the horn bends backward first and then forward. Every year, in May or June, females drop their horns, and males in November or December. After some time, the horns grow back. The number of processes grows on regrown horns, due to which their shape is complicated. They reach full development by the age of five.

Long winter fur. A mane is hanging from their neck. Fur hair is very fragile and light, as its core is filled with air. However, deer fur is very warm. The color of the winter fur is variable, from almost white to black. Often the color can be variegated, consisting of dark and light areas. Summer fur is softer and much shorter.

Its color is gray-brown or coffee-brown. Suspension and sides of the neck are bright. The fur of forest animals is darker than the fur of deer of the Far North. Little deer monochrome. Their fur is brownish gray or brown. Only the deer of Southern Siberia differ. They have on their backs large bright spots.

The broad hooves of the front legs of these cloven-hoofed animals have recesses in the form of a scoop or spoon. They are convenient to rake the snow to dig up moss from under it.

Behavior and nutrition

Reindeer are public animals. They graze in huge herds in which there may be thousands of heads, and during migrations of the herd reach tens of thousands. For decades, reindeer herds always migrate along the same route. They can travel five hundred kilometers or more. Animals swim well, so they easily cross the rivers and straits.

Siberian individuals live in the forest in winter. By the end of May, large herds of animals go to the tundra, where at this time there is more food for them. There are fewer mosquitoes and gadflies from which deer suffer. In August or September, the animals migrate back.

Scandinavian deer forests are avoided.

In North America, deer (caribou) migrates from the forest closer to the sea in April. In October, comes back.

European animals leave relatively close during the year. In the summer, they climb into the mountains, where it is cooler and you can escape from the midge and midges. In winter they go down or move from one mountain to another.

Deer suffer from gadflies, which lay eggs under their skin. As a result, boils are formed in which the larvae live. In the nostrils of the animal lays the testicles nasal gadfly. These insects cause so much suffering to deer and sometimes even deplete them.

Reindeer feed mainly on plants: moss or moss. This feed forms the basis of their nutrition for nine months. Having a perfectly developed sense of smell, animals very accurately find moss, berry bushes, sedges, and mushrooms under the snow. Throwing snow in the snow with hoofs, they get their own food. Other lichens, berries, grass, and even mushrooms can be included in the diet. Олени едят яйца птиц, грызунов, взрослых птиц.

Зимой животные поедают снег, чтобы утолить жажду. Они в больших количествах пьют морскую воду, чтобы поддержать в организме солевой баланс. Для этого же грызут сброшенные рога. Из-за нехватки в рационе минеральных солей олени могут грызть рога друг у друга.

Размножение и продолжительность жизни

Свои брачные игры северные олени начинают во второй половине октября. В это время самцы, добиваясь самок, устраивают бои. Самка северного оленя вынашивает детёныша почти восемь месяцев, по истечении которых рожает одного оленёнка. Очень редко бывает двойня.

Уже на следующий день после своего рождения малыш начинает бегать за матерью. Prior to the beginning of winter, the female feeds the baby deer with milk. Three weeks after birth, the horns begin to break through in the deer. In the second year of life, sexual maturity of the animal begins. The female can give birth until the age of eighteen.

Reindeer live about twenty five years old.

Home reindeer

Having isolated part of the herd of wild animals, people domesticated the reindeer. Pets are accustomed to people, live in half-grazing, and in case of danger they do not scatter, hoping that people will protect them. Animals used as mount animals, give milk, wool, bones, meat, horns. In turn, animals need only human salt and protection from predators.

The color of domestic animals is different. This may be due to individual characteristics, gender and age. European animals at the end of the molt are usually dark. Most of the head and back sides are brown. Limbs, tail, neck, crown, forehead grayish. Snow-white pets are highly valued by the peoples of the North.

Domestic deer are much smaller than wild ones.

Until now, for the inhabitants of the Far North, the deer is the only domestic animal with which their life and well-being is associated. This animal is for them and transport, and material for dwellings, and clothing, and food.

In taiga areas, reindeer ride. In order not to break the back of the animal, sit closer to the neck. In the tundra and forest tundra, they are harnessed to sledges (winter or summer) obliquely in threes or fours. For the transport of one person harnessed one animal. Up to one hundred kilometers a day can work hard without much fatigue.

Enemies of deer

Reindeer is desirable for large predators, as it has meat and fat. His enemies are wolf, bear, wolverine, lynx. During migration for predators comes the fertile season. Deer herds move long distances, sick and weak animals lag behind, losing their strength. They become prey wolverine and wolf packs.

Ruthlessly destroys these animals and man. He hunts an animal because of its horns, skins, meat.

Currently, there are about fifty thousand animals in the North European part, about six hundred thousand in North America and eight hundred thousand in the polar zones of Russia. Significantly more domestic deer. Their total number is about three million heads.

19 posts

Reindeer - lat. Rangifer tarandus (Linnaeus, 1758)
in North America - caribou (English caribou, cariboo ['kærəbuː])

It belongs to the family of the reindeer suborder of ruminants, the only representative of the genus Reindeer (Rangifer), an artiodactype mammal of the reindeer family.
He lives in the northern part of Eurasia and North America.
Eats not only grass and lichen, but also small mammals and birds.
In Eurasia, the reindeer is domesticated and is an important source of food and materials for many polar peoples.
Among the peoples of the North, wild reindeer is called sokoy.

Kingdom: Animals
Type: Chord
Class: Mammals
Detachment: parcipeds
Suborder: Ruminants
Family: Reindeer
Subfamily: Roes
Genus: Reindeer
Species: Reindeer

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Artiodactyla
Family: Cervidae
Subfamily: Capreolinae
Genus: Rangifer
Species: R. tarandus

***** Reindeer. North American subspecies:

1. Forest Caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou) - was originally distributed in the taiga regions of North America from Alaska to Newfoundland and Labrador. At present, the range has been significantly reduced, the subspecies is recognized as being in a state close to the threatened state (NT according to the IUCN classification).

2. Karibu Grant (R. tarandus granti) is a North American subspecies, distributed in Alaska, the Yukon and the Northwest Territories of Canada.

3. Tundra caribou (R. tarandus groenlandicus) - common in the Canadian Northwest Territories and in Nunavut, as well as in western Greenland.

4. R. tarandus pearyi - distributed on the northern islands of Nunavut and the Northwest Territories of Canada.

5. The Caribou Islands of Queen Charlotte Islands, or Caribou Dawson (R. tarandus dawsoni) - an extinct subspecies that lived on Graham Island, one of the largest in the archipelago of Queen Charlotte Islands off the Pacific coast of Canada (British Columbia).

***** Reindeer. Eurasian subspecies:

1. Wild reindeer (R. tarandus tarandus) - inhabitant of the arctic tundra of Eurasia, including the Scandinavian Peninsula of Northern Europe. In Russia, the population size exceeds 1.2 million individuals (1999).

2. Forest reindeer, or Finnish reindeer (R. tarandus fennicus) - found in the wild only in two regions of the Scandinavian Peninsula, as well as in Karelia. A small population lives in the center of southern Finland. The Karelian population goes quite far inland into Russia, the question remains open about the attitude of the eastern representatives of this population to this subspecies. Subtype listed in the Red Book of Russia.

3. Spitsbergen reindeer (R. tarandus platyrhynchus) - inhabitant of the islands of the Svalbard archipelago, is currently the smallest subspecies of the reindeer.

4. Novaya Zemlya reindeer (R. tarandus pearsoni) is an isolated population living on the islands of the Novaya Zemlya archipelago. In 1981 on the island of the South, there were about 6 thousand individuals. Subtype listed in the Red Book of Russia.

5. Arctic reindeer (R. tarandus eogroenlandicus) is a completely extinct subspecies, found in eastern Greenland before the beginning of the 20th century.

Reindeer is a migratory species.
Due to constant migrations, the lichen cover is not completely destroyed and has time to recover. Lichens make up 90% of the food for them, so they sense moss (staple food) even under a layer of snow.
Lichen substances obtained from food, save from intestinal parasites.

Wide hooves allow you to move through loose snow and dig it in search of food.

Thirsting this deer 9 months in a year quenches snow.

Wool is warm with a thick undercoat. The guard hairs are 1-2.5 cm long.
Hollow hairs for better insulation, also help keep afloat when crossing rivers ford.

Males also have horns, AND CAMS.
Females need horns in order to drive away competitors from the food they find, and are discarded when deer appear.

People domesticated reindeer, isolating part of a herd of wild animals.
Domestic reindeer live on semi-free herding, and they differ from wild animals in that they are accustomed to people and, in case of danger, do not scatter to the side, but come together, hoping to protect people.

From human deer need only salt and protection from predators.

From deer, people get milk, meat, wool, horns, bones, use them as riding animals.

Antlers (neogostvenivshie horns) of deer are known in traditional medicine due to its healing properties. Extract from them is used in pharmacology as a general tonic and adaptogenic drug.

In the 60s under the leadership of Professor I.I. Brehman developed a new preparation of antlers reindeer "Rantarin" (in tablets) and its liquid analogue "Velcornine". "Epsorin" - the first high-quality extract obtained from antlers of wild reindeer.
From the hardened horns of reindeer they produce a food additive with the immunostimulating action "CigaPan".

Reindeer. Russia:

Most caribou live in the almost treeless tundra in northern North America, along with a polar partridge and other arctic wildlife. The "pockets" of the tundra can be found to the south, in the high watersheds of the Rocky Mountains, but nowhere can you find all the diversity of the true northern life forms that inhabit the "barren territories" stretching from Alaska to the upper Quebec, including the communities of people calling themselves Inuit, Inupiat, and Yupik.

The Caribou carry the most extravagant antlers among the deer on Earth and are the only large wild mammals in North America that still migrate over long distances in huge herds. They are perfectly adapted to such a nomadic life.

In most breeds of deer, the hairs are hollow, but in caribou they almost completely retain the air both to isolate the body from sub-zero temperatures in winter and to facilitate the forcing of countless bodies of water in the tundra. Caribou swimming in the water floats like a loaded canoe, and a flock of flocks looks like a horned armada of ships on maneuvers.

In the summer, their soft hooves are larger in size than any other breed of deer, and such adaptability is useful for swimming and crossing swamps, while in winter, caribou hooves harden and shrink for movement on frozen ground and snow.

In the long nostrils of the caribou, there are swirling bones in the nasal conchas, which enlarge the inner surface to heat and moisten the inhaled icy air before it reaches the lungs.

Like black-tailed deer, the number of caribou can increase dramatically in a few years, and then suddenly decrease.

I first hunted caribou in Alaska in the mid-1990s, when the famous herd of the Malchatna River Basin was at its peak, and we met hundreds of these deer every day. In 2009 I hunted 2 weeks in approximately the same area and saw, maybe, only about fifty caribou, and only the only bull suitable for a trophy.

Many caribou herds across North America have declined markedly in the last decade, although some of them maintained a stable population. Possible reasons for this were depletion of pastures with caribou breeding, new reservoirs blocking migration routes, expansion of mining operations, or the old duty excuse, supposedly saying that there were many wolves.

Some biologists even suggest that perhaps it was not without climate change. But historical data shows us the ups and downs of the caribou population throughout the existence of written evidence on this topic.

I am convinced only one thing - I will never stop admiring these creatures.

It is assumed that they all belong to the same species (Rangifer tarandus), although in North America they are divided into 6 species, united in 2 main groups - caribou of barren land and forest.

Of course, anyone who hunted caribou in different parts of the continent noticed their differences in body and horn sizes.

According to Valerius Geist’s remarkable book Deer of the World, the largest caribou are found below the 60th parallel of northern latitude, along the upper border of the western provinces of Canada, including South Alaska and much of Ungava Peninsula in northern Quebec, although there are several exceptions due to the island and isolated populations on the mainland.

To the north of the 60th parallel, caribou become noticeably smaller, on the Arctic islands they correspond in size to average white-tailed deer.

This is contrary to the rule of Bergman, which states that widespread species of birds and mammals reach larger sizes in northern latitudes. However, this rule applies mainly to mammals living in temperate zones, such as deer and bears. Larger animals have a lower body weight / weight ratio, which allows them to retain more heat in cold weather.

But caribou is the animal of the Far North. In the circumpolar regions and in the Arctic, food is much less, both in general and in season, than in the areas lying to the south.

It is reported that the largest caribou belong to the rock that lives in the north of British Columbia and in the extreme south of the Yukon Territory. Their size may be due to the additional influence of height on the size of animals, which is also noted in the black-tailed deer in the Rocky Mountains.

In forest caribou, there is a tendency to be narrower and more severe than those that live in barren territories. Perhaps it is adaptability to forest, for the most part, habitat conditions.

Caribou from Alaska, and especially from Quebec, are distinguished by long and wide horns.
Then there are differences in the three elements, usually marked (though not always) in caribou horns: "shovels" (supraorbital processes), the second process (above "shovels") and terminal processes.
There is a myth that caribou bulls with double "spades" are rare. This perception appeared at a time when they were mainly hunting mountain caribou, and their double “shovels” of horns were really rare. But this is quite common among the caribou of barren lands. More than half of the bulls I harvested had double "shovels" of horns.