Where Do Reindeer Live?

Reindeer are commonly found in the Arctic Tundra and the boreal forests of Russia, Alaska, Scandinavia, Greenland, and Canada. These deer species often migrate in large numbers between tundra and forest areas. You will also find some in Northern Europe where they are domesticated.

There are two reindeer ecotypes: tundra reindeer and woodland reindeer. This article covers the habitat of reindeer and where they are typically found. So, without further delay, let’s get started!

What Climate Do Reindeer Live In?

Reindeer are often associated with Christmas, a holiday celebrated when Winter is at its peak. So, naturally, the creatures live in frigid climates near the Arctic tundra where temperatures drop below −58 °F.

Because they live in highly cool climates, their bodies are equipped with a double coat of thick fur to protect them from the cold. The coat has high insulating properties, which will be explained later in the article.

Did you know? Compared to humans, reindeer’s nasal architecture consists of 25% more capillaries that carry oxygenated blood. The increased blood flow in the nose helps keep the nose surface warm. ~ John Cullen of the University of Rochester

reindeer habitat
Reindeer Habitat

Where Do Reindeer Live in Canada?

Reindeer are found in the Northwest Territories in Canada, which is very close to the North Pole. This makes sense because their bodies are well adapted to extremely cold temperatures.

For over 80 years, domesticated reindeer have been reared in Canada’s Mackenzie delta, Northwest region. They were first brought to the area in 1935 when a caribou shortage emerged. 

Today, these animals, about 3000 in number, are the only free-ranging reindeer in Canada.

Reindeer tend to migrate a lot. So, in early April, they move toward the town of Inuvik. Areas surrounding Jimmy Lake are often their wintering grounds.

They slowly progress toward calving grounds on Richards Island near Tuktoyaktuk.

Where Do Reindeer Live in Europe?

Northern Europe is home to more than 3 million domestic reindeer. You will find them in northern Fennoscandia and Russia.

The Cairngorms region in Scotland is another important habitat of semi-domesticated reindeer. Wild tundra reindeer populate regions of Southern Norway.

See also  20 Amazing Facts about Reindeer and Caribou

In the early 20th century, reindeer from Norway migrated to the South Atlantic Island of Southern Georgia. Two different herds populated the area, separated by glaciers.

However, climate change eventually led to declining reindeer numbers in these areas between 2013 and 2017.

Traditional herders value these animals for their hides, meat, and milk. Sami (Lapps) of Scandinavia use reindeer antlers to make tools and carve them into totems.

reindeer lives in arctic

Currently, a small herd of around 4000 reindeer populates the French sub-Antarctic archipelago, while 2500–3000 animals have emerged in East Iceland (Source).

Other Habitats Where Reindeer Can Be Found

CountriesCountry Specific RegionDetailed Discussion about their habitats
FinlandFinnish forest reindeer populate Finland and Northwest Russia. They are mainly found in the provinces of North Karelia, Savonia, and Kainuu.There are about 20000 reindeer in Finland.  They prefer habitats where humans are rarely seen, such as the dense boreal forest.
AlaskaYou will find about 18 000 reindeer in Alaska, out of which 12 000 populate the Seward Peninsula.St. Lawrence Island, Nunivak Island, the Pribilof Islands, and the Aleutian Islands are habitats for reindeer.Reindeer prefer to eat willows in the early summer and spring months. During Late July and August, they switch to a mix of lichens and sedges.
RussiaSiberian tundra reindeer are found in Taimyr Bulun, Novosibirsk islands, and Yano-Indigirka regions in Russia.The herd in Chukotka is also in decline. From 587,000 animals in 1971, they fell to only 32,200 individuals in 1986. The population further declined to 70,000 in 2009.
USAIn the USA, you will find reindeer in the Northwest region living in the Lower 48 states. A small herd of woodland caribou can be found in Northern Idaho and northeastern Washington that migrate from British Columbia.Research suggests that only the last few reindeer (about a dozen) remain.
ScotlandBritain’s free-ranging herd of reindeer lives in Scotland in The Cairngorm National Park, a well-known tourist destination.  In 1952, reindeer emerged once again in Cairngorm Mountains by a Swedish Sami man who brought them to the land as an experiment.

Where Are Most Reindeer Found?

Most reindeer are found in the Arctic tundra. You will also find them in the adjacent boreal forests of Greenland. Reindeer originate in Scandinavia.

See also  Do Reindeer Shed Their Antlers?

Other regions that are home to these animals include North America, Siberia, and some parts of Europe. 

Norway, Finland, and Sweden are home to most wild reindeer. In Norway alone, you will find about 270 000 animals.

Where Can I See a Real Reindeer?

Real reindeer are not easy to spot because they prefer living in places where human interference is minimal. But if you look in the right place, you will probably find a wild sighting that will be incredibly rewarding.

Here are the 4 best spots to see reindeer:

Swedish Lapland

Swedish Lapland is home to approximately 300,000 reindeer which means there’s a huge possibility of spotting one in the area.

Sami people, a group of 170,000 individuals, are spread out over the Arctic North, including areas such as Sweden, Finland, Russia, and Norway.

Reindeer herding is a common practice in their land, which means there’s a good chance of getting close to reindeer in Swedish Lapland.

Cairngorms Reindeer Center, Scotland:

If you’re hoping to see real reindeer, you shouldn’t miss the Cairngorms reindeer center in Scotland.

Located in the famous national park, you can walk through the Cairngorms hills every day, where reindeer roam freely in the wild.

A guide will walk you through their natural habitat, allowing you to see them up close, feed them, and even stroke these magical creatures.

Svalbard, Norway

You will find plenty of reindeer spotting opportunities in Svalbard, Norway, a land between the North Pole and Norway’s mainland.

Here, you will find the smallest species of reindeer, weighing between 56 kg and 90 kg.

They are much smaller than reindeer found in other areas, which weigh around 80 kg to 180 kg, depending on their gender.

See also  Are Reindeer and Caribou the Same? Differences Explained!

Unlike other types of reindeer, Svalbard reindeer usually travel alone or in a small herd. They roam all over Svalbard, so you are highly likely to spot one roaming in its natural habitat.

Denali National Park, Alaska

Reports suggest that about 750,000 reindeer populate Alaska, some of which you can easily find in the wild.

The Denali national park is a great place to start your search for real reindeer because about 3000 animals are found here.

You can also visit the Kenai Peninsula and highways north of Fairbanks in Alaska to find real reindeer.

If you’re unwilling to go wild, it’s a good idea to visit The Alaska Wildlife Conservation Centre.

Here are other places you can visit if you want to see real reindeer:

  • Inuvik, Canada
  • Finnish Lapland, Finland
  • Tromso, Norway
reindeer arctic tundra

Where Can I Find Santa’s Reindeer?

Santa’s reindeer, also known as R.t. Saint-Nicolas magicalus are found at the North Pole. These fictional creatures are known for their infinite life expectancy.

Some even say that they are immune to the coronavirus, so the supply of gifts wasn’t disrupted during the pandemic.

The best part is Rudolf, the reindeer who guides Santa’s sleigh, wouldn’t need a mask to cover his bright red nose!

Can Reindeer Live Anywhere in The World?

No, Reindeer cannot live anywhere in the world. These animals can only survive in the cold because of their unique biological characteristics, including their insulating hide, “red noses,” and more.

A soft wool layer covers their skin, coated with long and hollow “guard hairs” that trap heat around their body, keeping them warm in the frigid temperatures of their natural habitat. ~ Wonderopolis.org

In hot weather, reindeer do not eat much and often roam around restlessly. Insects constantly attack them because the areas around their eyes don’t have enough fur.

Anemia is common among calves in hot weather. If not kept in the right temperatures, younger reindeer might also die.

In other words, reindeer cannot survive in warm temperatures just like polar bears because of their biological features.

Are Reindeer Endangered?

Yes, Reindeer are endangered. Poaching, environmental changes, and increased human interference are major factors that have led to the decline in reindeer populations all over the world.

They have made it among the “Least Concern” category on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. They need protection to prevent a further decline in reindeer numbers. ~ World Animal Foundation

The Canadian government has already taken action to monitor these species. Bern Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats has initiated European protection and conservation projects. 

The animal entertainment industry often keeps reindeer in captivity because of their association with Christmas. As a result, their welfare is compromised and their dietary, environmental, and management requirements are not met.

The lack of exercise weakens their immune systems, making them more susceptible to sickness. They also undergo stress and boredom, which leads to self-mutilation.

All the factors mentioned above are the reason behind the sharp decline in reindeer numbers. In the past two decades, reindeer numbers have fallen from 4.6 million to an estimated 2.1 million in 2018.

Final words

Reindeer are fascinating creatures, from their unique biological characteristics to their association with Christmas. They can adapt to warm and cold temperatures but cannot survive in the heat.

Unfortunately, these creatures are now endangered. Conservation projects to save reindeer have already begun, but we need to make more efforts to save these magical creatures!

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