SciSun: Go North, young Deer   Leave a comment

This Reindeer disapproves. Young ReindeerYou see, for countless numbers of years stories have been told of reindeer pulling Santas’ sleigh from the North Pole to all points on the globe, helping Santa deliver toys and gifts to girls and boys around the world. It’s not that this reindeer (who, we might say, wasn’t in the best mood when this photo was taken) is against Santa or gifts or flying around the world; it’s that Reindeer (Rangifer tarandus) don’t usually normally live at the North Pole. Or really, anywhere near the North Pole. And since reindeer are very, very good at geography (remember, they were guiding Santa long before GPS), this misguided ‘North Pole ‘ information makes Ranger the Reindeer here, a very displeased reindeer indeed.

Reindeer do live in the far, far, north. In Greenland; Norway; Finland; Siberia; Alaska and Northern Canada, reindeer herds are thriving and in some areas reindeer are the largest mammal normally found (yey reindeer!). And even though these areas are cold and snowy more than warm and green, all are hundreds of miles from the North Pole (which is a considerable distance, even for migratory animals like reindeer). Historically, reindeer ranged much, much further – into Central Europe; Northern China; and throughout Canada into the states of Washington, Idaho and Maine. Very far back into prehistory – the Pleistocene Era of over 10,000 years ago – there’s evidence of reindeer as far south as what is now the states of Tennessee and Nevada! As far as we know the reindeer walked there, not flew.

Of course that’s part of the problem with reindeer living at the North Pole: They like cool, short-summer environments of tundra (generally rocky land with very few or no trees); and taiga (very dense forests of evergreen, coniferous trees and very few undergrowth plants like shrubs). The North Pole is an always cold arctic environment of ice and snow and open seas which is fine for Polar Bears (Ursus maratimus) and whales and seals; but it’s not just the pine-scented air and wooded vistas reindeer love; it’s because in the tundra and taiga grow the reindeers’ favorite food: Lichen!; and these herbivores are the only mammal that can eat this unusual combination of a fungus with an algae. (Along with fungus, grasses, berries, and whatever leaves they can find, at times reindeer have been seen eating bird eggs and even fish. Which actually makes them more of an opportunistic eater. When it’s that cold it’s hard to stay on an all-vegetarian diet).

Maybe the idea of reindeer living at the North Pole came about because the earliest stories of Santa didn’t originate from the top of the world, but from some of those countries where reindeer are plentiful. And since Santa needed someone to pull his sleigh, reindeer were the obvious choice. It’s a good thing Santa didn’t decide to move to the South Pole. Penguins probably wouldn’t make very good sled-pullers. Besides, they can’t fly.

Of course Ranger, here, has never personally met Comet or Donder (who’s sometimes called Donner, but he’s cool with it) or Vixen or any of Santas’ other reindeer who actually do live at the North Pole. (We suspect their arrangement is kind of a work-study situation). So while Ranger disapproves, we really think he might be a little jealous. After all, Santas’ reindeer only have to work one night a year, and they get all the cookies and milk they want. Santa can’t eat all that by himself.

“Don't blame me if you didn't get the gift you wanted, I don't fill the orders I just pull the sleigh!”

“Don’t blame me if you didn’t get the gift you wanted, I don’t fill the orders I just pull the sleigh!”


Michonne Says: I’ve never seen a reindeer up close. Of course during the cold times sometimes I’ve heard jingle-jingling as they fly over, but they never stop. Maybe if I put out a stocking. If I knew what a stocking was.

Posted December 22, 2013 by ECOVIA eco-adventure® in SciSun

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