Scientific Name: Rangifer tarandus
There isn’t a person out there that doesn’t agree that Reindeer are appealing. There are many happy memories wrapped up for most people with the holidays and them. It puts them in a different light than other species of deer for sure. In fact, you an even visit them at zoos out there because they are a common enough attraction.
What you will find is that the size of these deer can be drastically different. On the lower end you have males that are about 200 pounds and females that are around 130 pounds. At the higher end though you have males that are about 700 pounds and females that are about 400 pounds. It is believed that the foods they have access to in different locations is what offers them their overall sizing.
When you look at Reindeer you may think you only see males around, but that is because of a fascinating characteristic. They are the only species out there where all of them have antlers. In all the others the females won’t develop them.
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What is the reason for the females also having antlers? We really don’t have that information. Some experts believe it has to do with physical attraction. I could also be some type of hierarchy for the herds to follow. The males are the ones that do have a need for them as they fight with each other to mate with the females. They will use their antlers to try to win those engagements.
Looking at the antlers of the Reindeer is very interesting. First, you will notice that they have a high and a low point where they grow out of. They can grow many different points in various directions from them. The males have a span that can be up to 53 inches in size. The female antlers are smaller but can still span at least 39 inches. There is plenty of variety among the Reindeer when it comes to both the size and the design of their antlers.
The body of these Reindeer is very stocky. They have shorter legs than other species which is one of the reasons why they can’t move as fast. They are powerful animals though and they definitely can hold their own. They do live in very cold areas which many people find to be puzzling.
Yet their anatomy is well designed for them to be quite comfortable there. Let’s examine some of those elements. They have two layers of fur instead of just one. You will only see the outer layer with the long hairs. They are also thin so that the deer is able to have ventilation. Under that though they have thick hair that is short and curly. It has a wooly texture to it.
Movement is easy for the Reindeer due to their hooves. The feel of them changes depending on the time of year. They need to have traction in the summer so that they don’t fall in the slippery mud. During this time the hooves are like sponges. In the winter though they become very hard. They are a tool that the deer use for digging so that they can find food sources.
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There aren’t solid conclusions about the evolution of the Reindeer. Many believe that they are versatile animals, and that is proven by the fact that they live in the wild in cold regions. Then they are also found in captivity in all different climates and adjust to it very well. We really don’t know why they ended up in these colder areas though. Yet we do find that some of their body designs including the second layer of fur have to be part of the evolution process.
We really don’t know too much about the behavior of the Reindeer in the wild. They do seem more vocal than other species of deer though. The females stick close together in a herd while they mature males travel on their own. These aren’t’ really aggressive deer though due to the fact that they don’t keep a home range that they need to defend.
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Instead they continue to roam around looking for food and shelter. From time to time they will end up back in areas where they once explored. Yet this is one type of deer that does still have quite a large habitat that they can freely explore. They can walk 3,000 miles on average each year to find what they are looking for.
Not all of the Reindeer out there though are really wild. You see there are some domesticated resources out there where they have been catered too. Why would they want to continue being wild when they can stay in one place and get all that they need? It certainly beat foraging for food. Not everyone is happy about this though as they do want to see those in the wild making it on their own.
So where do the Reindeer live? They love the cold areas around the Arctic and the Sub Artic. Other than in captivity you will only find them in Norway, Siberia, Greenland, and Alaska. All of these areas are known for the drastically low temperatures out there.
The amount of food that the Reindeer need to find for survival is very high. They have different foods that they eat at different times of the year. Some of their favorites when available are eggs from birds and mushrooms. They also live off of lots of grass, twigs, and leaves.
It is during the winter when the ground freezes that they have the hardest time getting food. They can spend lots of time digging for it. Lichen is what they mainly survive on during the winter months. They won’t eat as much then so they have to have lots of fat stored up from the earlier seasons.
The males start to become more aggressive as September approaches. Hormones are ranging through them and so they will start to become territorial in a given area. They will seek out a herd of females that will be under their control. Since there are many males with this same theory, they will have to fight to see how is able to do so. Sometimes many males will fight to climb up the ranks for one herd.
The successful male then is able to mate with lots of females before November is over with. This is really the only time he will stay around the females for a period of time. His next goal is to find enough food to store up fat for the winter. Males can lose lots of their body weight during mating. They aren’t eating like they should as all their time is consumed fighting or attracting females.
The young are born the following in late may or early June. They are going to be isolated with their mother for the first couple of weeks of life. This gives them time to get stronger and for them to bond. The young will be hidden while the mother goes off to feed. She has to get enough nutrition or her body won’t produce milk for the offspring. Once this time passes they will join the herd.
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There are predators out there that the Reindeer come into contact with. They include wolves and Golden Eagles. They tend to stock the younger ones because of their size. There are two types of bears out there – the Brown Bear and the Polar Bear that can Humans are predators too. In areas of Alaska and Greenland the villagers consume them as a source of meat for their own survival.