Name: the reindeer (Rangifer tarandus) – also known as the caribou – is a species of deer adapted to Arctic environments. They live in large herds that can reach up to a million strong.
Appearance: reindeer are easily recognised by their large and distinctively shaped antlers. They are unique among deer in that both males and females grow antlers. While they vary depending on where they live, these antlers are the second largest of all deer species – reaching over 1.3 metres long!
Size: they stand up to 1.5 metres tall and weigh up to 180kg. Reindeer living on the island of Svalbard are the smallest subspecies – only reaching 80 cm tall!
Diet: reindeer are unique amongst mammals in that they mainly feed on lichen. They are able to digest this difficult food source thanks to special bacteria and enzymes in their stomachs.
Did you know: reindeer have some incredible adaptations to their life in the frozen north. One such adaptation is their highly specialised eyes which can see ultraviolet light. It’s thought this helps them to survive because many objects that blend into the landscape in normal light produce sharp contrasts in ultraviolet. Their eyes even change colour from gold in summer to blue in winter to improve their vision during the continuous darkness. Thanks to their ability to survive the cold they have allowed humans to survive in the Arctic alongside them for centuries.
Location: reindeer are native to the Arctic, sub-Arctic, tundra, boreal, and mountainous regions of northern Europe, Siberia, and North America.
Where to see Reindeer
According to reports submitted to WildSide, you can see reindeer in the following places:
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Photo credit: clairegillan under a Creative Commons licence from Pixabay