Animal of the Issue: Reindeer and/or Caribou

A reindeer grazing in Finland. Photo Credit / Pixabay ©
A reindeer grazing in Finland. Photo Credit / Pixabay ©
A reindeer grazing in Finland. Photo Credit / Pixabay ©

A reindeer grazing in Finland.
Photo Credit / Pixabay ©

By Janice Tieperman
Science Editor

While mostly known for their mythos, the reindeer as an animal is undoubtedly one of the most beloved symbols of the holiday season.

The name of the creatures tends to differ on its location.

“In Europe, they are called reindeer. In North America, the name reindeer is used when referring to Eurasian populations and the name caribou to refer to wild populations in North America,” the San Diego Zoo website explains.

Whichever name you use, it’s the reindeer’s distinct appearance that makes it so iconic.
Its antlers, which can be up to 51 inches long on a male and 20 inches long on a female.

However, these antlers begin to grow at completely different times, with the male’s sprouting in late winter and the female’s in mid-spring, according to the San Diego Zoo website.

Surprisingly enough, the site states that these antlers will manage to finish growing at the same time, removing any antler-growing competition between the animals.

When this math is kept in mind, a great anomaly can be seen in one of the most famous reindeer films of all—Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

“Female reindeer keep their antlers through the winter until their calves are born in May,” the San Diego Zoo site states.

“This fact has led many to believe that, based on the presence of antlers, Rudolph the Red-Nosed reindeer must have been a female to have those antlers on Christmas Eve.”

It must be kept in mind that the life of these creatures is not all fun and reindeer games.

The reindeer has several enemies in the wild, including birds of prey and many wild cats. This being said, their population is currently very stable and not in any danger of making it onto the radar of the World Wildlife Fund.

According to Philip Burgess of the International Centre for Reindeer Husbandry, “Reindeer as a species are the cornerstone of life in Arctic and nearly 30 indigenous peoples in the northern hemisphere.”

Combined with having to fly around the world every year to deliver presents to a global populace of children, the reindeer has a very busy schedule.

Email Janice at:
jtieperman@live.esu.edu

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