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Animal Information

Reindeer Northlands


Rangifer tarandus

Biome: Northlands

Classification: Mammals

Biography: Reindeer, also known as caribou, are an Arctic and Subarctic-dwelling deer. At one time, they occupied large regions in Eastern Europe and the northern United States. Today however, wild reindeer have disappeared from many areas within this range and are typically found only in Norway, Siberia, Greenland, Alaska and Canada.

Reindeer have many adaptations to help them survive in the Arctic. Their coat has two layers of fur to keep them warm – a dense woolly undercoat and longer-haired overcoat consisting of hollow, air-filled hairs. In the summer when the tundra is soft and wet, their footpads become sponge-like and provide extra traction. In the winter, the pads tighten to expose the rim of the hoof, which cuts into ice to keep them from slipping and enables them to dig down through the hard snow to find food.

The reindeer's favorite food is a plant known as reindeer moss. They also eat the leaves of willows and birches, as well as grasses. Because they have a four-chambered stomach, reindeer are known as ruminants. Other animals that fall into this category are cattle, goats, sheep, deer and giraffes.

Both male and female reindeer have antlers which fall out and re-grow each year under a layer of fur called velvet. Older males lose their antlers in December, while young males fall off in the early spring and females lose theirs in the summer.

An addition to ZooAmerica for a limited time, Santa's nine reindeer can be seen in the Pioneer Frontier area at Hersheypark during Christmas Candylane!

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