Reindeer:

Migration

 

Home

About think Differently About Sheep

Sentient Sheep

Sheep in religion and mythology

Sheep in Art

Sheep Breeds

Help Our Sheep

Vegetarianism/veganism

Animal Rights

Factory Farming

Animal Rights and Why they Matter

Sentience in Farm Animals

Farm Animal Facts

Why Animals matter:
A Religious and Philosophical perspective

Vegan Rambles

Photograph Gallery

Articles

Animals in art

Art Gallery

Clip art

Quotations

Graphic Quotations

Portrait Gallery: Animals do Not all Look the Same

Links

Useful Links: Action You Can Take

Contact

A Memorial to Sooty

A Memorial to Joey

A Memorial To Patch

 

Page of a section concerning Reindeer.
Click the links below to access pages on the following topics:

Reindeer: General Information  Reindeer:Migration  
Reindeer: Myth, religion and Tradition  Reindeer in Art  
Reindeer:Domestication a Short History    
Reindeer the Unlikely Farm Animal: Reindeer Domestication in Recent Times and the issue of Animal Rights.
Reindeer: Emblems on Coins and Stamps
Reindeer:Random facts
For ease of reading all quotations appear in a purple font.    

Migration

One of the world's wonders is the migration of reindeer. Watch the awesome videos below of the migration of thousands of these animals as they relentlessly move ever forwards, crossing lakes, traversing  mountains with inexorable determination, it is a spectacular sight.

Times, destinations and length of migrations vary within the various reindeer subspecies, sometimes even within the same subspecies. Many subspecies of Reindeer move around according to the change in the seasons to find food, to avoid the cold and escape biting insects, most particularly mosquitoes. The most extensive migrations occur in spring and autumn. As the time for the summer migration approaches smaller herds of reindeer congregate together to form large herds which may number between 10,000 to 100,000 animals.  In contrast for the autumn migration the large herd spit to form smaller groups as the reindeer begin to mate and migrate to spend the winter in forests foraging for a meagre sustenance under the snow The reindeer make their long and exhausting trek  walking, trotting, ambling, and running, travelling at a variety of speeds ranging  from 7km (4miles) per hour with a running speed of about 35 mph for distances of about 159 km (110 miles) per day to complete the migration of 1,000 to 1,600 miles. In a year reindeer may travel as much as 5,000 km ( 3,100 miles) each year. To cross the  large lakes, wide rivers and ocean inlets which they encounter, reindeer, who are strong swimmers, may move with speeds of up to 10km( 6miles) per hour as they cross icy cold waters.

Various reindeer subspecies spend the duration of the summer on the arctic tundra or in coastal regions but prefer the shelter of forest during the winter months.

Some populations of reindeer travel furthest of any terrestrial animal, making long migrations they travel further north during the summer for fresh grazing returning in the winter to relatively warmer more southerly climates for shelter.  Other subspecies have only a short migration and remain more localised. For example the Eurasian Forest Reindeer and the American Woodland Caribou take only short migrations to different altitudes according to the season. In mountainous regions a small population of reindeer, a variation of the above mentioned Eurasian Forest reindeer, called the Woodland Reindeer makes a relativity short journey up into the mountains to spend the summer in order to escape the heat and insects returning to lower altitudes in the autumn. American Woodland Caribou live the whole year round in the boreal forest and herd in small groups travelling only to the edge of the forest boundary. Unlike the far travelling migrants, such as the Barren Ground Caribou who traverse huge distances in large numbers to calve in specific breeding grounds, the woodland Caribou separate from one another and remain alone to calve and care for their young throughout most of the spring and summer. The Mountain Caribou, a variation of this subspecies, however like the Woodland Reindeer make short migrations but only of altitude and of no more than about 50kms.

It should be noted that reindeer of the same subspecies may have evolved in different directions developing adaptations to accommodate changes in their environment. The reindeer featured in the Video below, The George River herd, belong to the Woodland Caribou subspecies and represent the largest caribou herd in the world and unlike their counterparts migrate thousands of miles from boreal forests to open tundra to calve.

 

Reindeer who live on islands, for example the Svalbard Reindeer and the Peary Caribou, are of course restricted by local movements only.

The Barren Ground Caribou, The Alaskan Caribou, and the Eurasian Tundra Reindeer make long migrations and give birth to their calves on the Tundra towards the end of the spring migration. The annual migration of the Barren Ground Caribou, numbering an estimated 1.2 to 2 million animals, is the most well known for its epic journey from their winter habitat in the forest to specific calving grounds on the tundra close to the Arctic ocean some 600 miles distant. Beginning in April herds begin the trek travelling considerable distances, sometimes as much as thirty miles each day according to conditions, often traversing difficult terrain and crossing turbulent rivers, occasionally needing to change course during unfavourable conditions in order to arrive at their chosen calving grounds in time to give birth. In their summer habitats the migrants spend the summer pestered by insects, their growing warm antlers are a particular attraction to blood sucking mosquitoes.  However grazing is abundant in the land of the land of the midnight sun with twenty four hours of continuous growth of vegetation providing the growing calves with nutritious milk, with the result that their body weight doubles in size every two or three weeks. Such rapid growth ensures sufficient body fat to survive the arduous winter. Adults too need to lay down fat reserves. Good grazing during the summer is also of great importance to ensure a good rate of antler growth. To avoid the severe weather of the tundra reindeer travel back towards the forest to seek shelter from the severity of winter. The winter is a difficult time for the reindeer whose movements are erratic as they forage for sufficient food to sustain themselves through the long cold and dark eight months of winter while trying to avoid predation by both man and wolf

The Alaskan Caribou is the most travelled animal in the world, some are capable of travelling an incredible 5,000 kms each year and migrate in vast herds. The western arctic herd, who number about 500,000 animals, migrate to calving grounds in North west Alaska. The Eurasian Tundra Reindeer numbering only about 200,000 migrate to the north coast of Russia to calve before migrating south into forested areas to spend the winter months.

The long migrations are arduous, a test of survival, a challenge for all reindeer however for the young calves it is a strenuous and exhausting endurance, a marathon of epic proportion. For some types of reindeer it can take as long as a month and may involve  lengthy swim through an icy cold sea channels. For the calves this is a terrifying experience and may be beyond their ability to endure. In a state of panic many may try to turn back often with the effect that other reindeer turn back also.

Credits

Banner: flickr.com/photos/27126314@N03/3076964230/

Snow background: feebleminds-gifs.com/christmas-background