Animal of the week: Reindeer
By: Madelynn Lockwood, Features Editor and Hannah Wiley, Assistant Features Editor
As we say goodbye to Halloween, we think it is time to promptly welcome the Christmas season (yes, we know it is November 3) with our animal of the week — the reindeer.
Reindeer, also known as Caribou, are not only Santa’s wheels but also an animal native to the northernmost part of the globe stretching all the way around and down into most parts of Canada and Russia. They are herd animals, but the size of the pack differs greatly based on where they are located in the world.
The size of their herd is not the only thing about reindeer that make them so incredibly diverse, but also the dramatic differences that can be observed based on their looks alone. This is mostly due to the adaptations made for their specific climate; for example, some are adapted for harsh and cold climates, while others are adapted for long distance migration.
Reindeer are great at adapting to the changing seasons. They have shrinking hooves to help them get around as the seasons change throughout the year. During the winter months, their hooves shrink and become tighter to allow them to easily move on the ground that is icy and hard. During the spring and summer months, they become soft and sponge-like as the ground becomes warmer, soft and wet.
Reindeer are herbivores who eat grasses, mushrooms, mosses, ferns and herbs during the warmer months, while they eat moss and lichen — also known as reindeer moss — during colder months. They also have a very strong sense of smell which helps them to smell food below the snow. Reindeer also eat 9 to 18 pounds of vegetation each day.
A reindeer’s antlers are what make them stand out as an animal, not only real life but also in everyone’s favorite Christmas movies. Both male and female reindeer grow antlers: males lose their antlers in December and young males lose theirs in early spring, while females lose theirs in the summer months. Each year, their antlers grow back under fur called velvet.
There are many different species of reindeer, but the Finnish Forest Reindeer is what you think of when thinking about Santa’s reindeer. Finnish Forest Reindeer are the largest reindeer, the largest species at 7 1/2 feet long. They also have special hooves that scoop snow as they walk, helping them to move easier through the snow.