What would Christmas be like without Santa’s reindeer? The tradition’s not likely to disappear, but real-life reindeer may not be so lucky.

Reindeer and caribou naturally fluctuate in number, but there’s concern that both are declining. One study indicates the global population has decreased by nearly 60 percent over the last 30 years. The animals face many challenges. On the North American mainland, roads and oil development have encroached on their traditional habitats.

On high Arctic islands, global warming is a bigger foe. Reindeer there often cross sea ice to migrate to other islands. So as the ice disappears, so do important corridors. And warmer winters bring more rain instead of snow – a problem, says Brage Bremset Hansen of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology.

Hansen: “The snow melts from the rain, and the ground is deeply frozen due to the permafrost. So this melted water and rain water freeze, and make up a thick, solid ice layer.”

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When the tundra is covered by thick ice, Arctic reindeer can starve. And since real reindeer do not fly like Rudolph, island herds cannot move north to adapt to a warming climate.

Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media.
Photo: Copyright protected.

More Resources
Reindeer and caribou populations plunge
Climate change spells bad news for reindeer, say experts
Climate, icing, and wild arctic reindeer: past relationships and future prospects
Climate change: reflections in the reindeer community

Erika Street Hopman

Erika Street Hopman is co-founder of ChavoBart Digital Media (CBDM), an audio and video production firm with a focus on scientific and environmental media. CBDM contributes original reporting, audio production,...