Reindeer are classed as Cervidae. Cervidae encompasses many species that have antlers, such as deer, elk, and moose. Scientific research suggests that the reindeer was one of the first animals to be domesticated by humans, around 2,000 years ago. The reindeer still plays an integral part in the lives of many native Arctic people, who may use the creature for food, clothing, travel and other resources; by using their bones and antlers. Reindeers are the only type of Cervidae in which both the male and female reindeer grow antlers. These antlers fall off and grow again each year.
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What do reindeers eat?
Reindeer are herbivores, which means they only eat plant-based material called vegetation. Domesticated reindeer enjoy eating daily grass and hay. What do reindeers eat in captivity also depends on what leafy greens you have available to give them, as reindeer can safely eat their way through a whole host of vegetables like swiss chard, collard and beet greens, kale, lettuce, and cabbage.
Reindeer are very sociable creatures that travel in groups known as herds. These herds can range in size from anything to a few animals, to up to half a million reindeer! When asking “what do reindeers eat”, we should also consider how reindeer eat. Like many herbivores that travel in herds, reindeer look for a suitable area to feed and will stop to refuel until the food source becomes scarce.
Reindeer live in the cold tundra of the Arctic circle which encompasses Alaska, Canada, Greenland, northern Europe and northern Asia. The arctic circle is very close to the north pole, and as such, very little vegetation survives during its long, cold winters. Therefore, what do reindeers eat, depends on the season and time of year they feed. In the summer, reindeer thrive by eating grasses, plants, herbs, leaves, and forms of fungi. Most reindeer will then migrate between 1,000 – 3,000 miles to feed in slightly warmer areas before the severe winter weather hits.
During the winter, they generally survive on mosses and lichen, which are hardy enough to live through the severe cold weather. They will use their hooves and antlers to dig through the top layer of snow, to get to the living tundra below. Cladonia rangifernia is a type of lichen also known as Reindeer Lichen, which reindeer will often eat in the harsh winter months.
Reindeer do not suffer in the cold as their bodies and thick hide and fur, is able to withstand their harsh habitat. Their noses have the ability to warm the air they breathe before it reaches their lungs, which ensures their entire body is kept at a suitable temperature. This could be the reason behind the idea for the famous Christmas song ‘Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer”.
What do reindeers eat as adults do not differ much from what they eat when they are young. Baby reindeer, known as calves, will begin to eat solid food within one week of being born. They will also nurse on their mother’s milk for the first six months of their life. On average, reindeers live until they are around 16 years old.
What animal eats the reindeer?
We now know what do reindeers eat, but what about what animal eats the reindeer? The main predators of reindeer that prowl the Arctic are grey wolves. They will hunt in packs to surround and pounce on any sized reindeer. Brown bears and polar bears also both eat reindeer, if they can catch them first! Wolverines occasionally attack reindeer too, but as they are much smaller in size, they will go after calves, or the sick and injured.
What are reindeer also known as?
Reindeer are also known as the caribou. They are known as reindeer in Europe, but in America, wild populations of reindeer are called caribou.