Rangifer tarandus is "endangered in Canada in regions such as south-east British Columbia at the Canadian-USA border, along the Columbia, Kootenay and Kootenai rivers and around Kootenay Lake. Rangifer tarandus is endangered in the United States in Idaho and Washington. R. t. pearyi is on the IUCN endangered list." According to Geist, the "woodland caribou is highly endangered throughout its distribution right into Ontario."
The Queen Charlotte Islands caribou (R. tarandus dawsoni) from the Queen Charlotte Islands was believed to represent a distinct subspecies. It became extinct at the beginning of the 20th century. However, recent DNA analysis from mitochondrial DNA of the remains from those reindeer suggest that the animals from the Queen Charlotte Islands were not genetically distinct from the Canadian mainland reindeer subspecies.
Currently, many reindeer herders are heavily dependent on diesel fuel to provide for electric generators and snow mobile transportation, although solar photovoltaic systems can be used to reduce diesel dependency.
Some of the Rangifer tarandus subspecies may be further divided by ecotype depending on several behavioural factors – predominant habitat use (northern, tundra, mountain, forest, boreal forest, forest-dwelling, woodland, woodland (mountain), woodland (boreal), woodland (migratory), spacing (dispersed or aggregated), and migration (sedentary or migratory).
Hunting of wild reindeer and herding of semi-domesticated reindeer (for meat, hides, antlers, milk and transportation) are important to several Arctic and Subarctic peoples. In Lapland, reindeer pull pulks. Reindeer are well known due to Santa Claus' sleigh being pulled by flying reindeer in Christmas folklore.
Reindeer vary considerably in colour and size. In most populations, both sexes grow antlers annually, but females lack antlers in a few. Antlers are typically larger on males.
On 29 August 2016, the Norwegian Environment Agency announced the death of 323 reindeer by the effects of a lightning strike in Hardangervidda.
According to Olaus Magnus's Historia de Gentibus Septentrionalibus – printed in Rome in 1555 – Gustav I of Sweden sent 10 reindeer to Albert I, Duke of Prussia, in the year 1533. It may be these animals that Conrad Gessner had seen or heard of.
On the regional level each reindeer herding area has its own board of 5 or 7 members appointed by the Sámi Parliament and the County council (Fylkestinget) but also a regional Reindeer Husbandry Administration. The reindeer agronomist is the head of the administration on the regional level and mainly works as acontact between reindeer herders and managers of reindeer herding. The administration on the regional level also works as a secretary to the area board.
Grubb (2005) noted that subspecies and divisions below** are considered valid based on Banfield (1961) and considerably modified by Geist (1998):
Mating occurs from late September to early November. Males battle for access to females. Two males will lock each other's antlers together and try to push each other away. The most dominant males can collect as many as 15–20 females to mate with. A male will stop eating during this time and lose much of his body reserves.
There are three large herds of migratory tundra wild reindeer in central Siberia's Yakutia region: Lena-Olenek, Yana-Indigirka and Sundrun herds. While the population of the Lena-Olenek herd is stable, the others are declining.
There is strong regional variation in Rangifer herd size. There are large population differences among individual herds, and the size of individual herds has varied greatly since 1970. The largest of all herds (Taimyr, Russia) has varied between 400,000 and 1,000,000; the second largest herd (George River, Canada) has varied between 28,000 and 385,000.
Although there are remnant populations of R. t. caribou boreal woodland caribou in the northern United States, most of U.S. caribou populations are in Alaska. There are four herds in Alaska, the Western Arctic herd, Teshekpuk Lake herd, the Central Arctic herd and the Porcupine herd.
The blood of the caribou was supposedly mixed with alcohol as drink by hunters and loggers in colonial Quebec to counter the cold. This drink is now enjoyed without the blood as a wine and whiskey drink known as Caribou.
Norway is now preparing to apply for nomination as a World Heritage Site for areas with traces and traditions of reindeer hunting in Dovrefjell-Sunndalsfjella National Park, Reinheimen National Park and Rondane National Park in Central Sør-Norge (Southern Norway). There is in these parts of Norway an unbroken tradition of reindeer hunting from post-glacial Stone Age until today.
Some recent authorities have considered them all valid, even suggesting that they are quite distinct. In their book entitled Mammal Species of the World, American zoologist Don E. Wilson and DeeAnn Reeder agree with Valerius Geist, specialist on large North American mammals, that this range actually includes several subspecies.[Notes 1]
Several Norwegian municipalities have one or more reindeer depicted in their coats-of-arms: Eidfjord, Porsanger, Rendalen, Tromsø, Vadsø, and Vågå. The historic province of Västerbotten in Sweden has a reindeer in its coat of arms. The present Västerbotten County has very different borders and uses the reindeer combined with other symbols in its coat-of-arms. The city of Piteå also has a reindeer. The logo for Umeå University features three reindeer.
The Sámi language is very rich in its terminology for reindeer, reindeer husbandry and landscape generally. Terminology is an important part of Sámi traditional knowledge and it is transmitted from one generation to another, mostly orally. The very exact knowledge about nature demonstrates an ancient and close connection to it and how important reindeer husbandry is for the Sámi.
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(Sverige inför klimatförändringarna – hot och möjligheter SOU 2007:60) Traditional Knowledge and Language
(Lov om reindrift (reindriftsloven) 2007-06-15-40, Landbruks- og matdepartementet)
The canonical Mammal Species of the World (3rd ed.) recognizes fourteen subspecies, two of which are extinct.
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NBR, the organization of Norwegian Sámi reindeer herders, and the state through the Department of Agriculture and Food annually negotiate on economic measures but also professional, social and organizational issues. The first agreement was drawn up in the 1970’s. The agreement builds on various elements, such as the importance of reindeer husbandry, the main objectives of the Agreement and its primary goals.
There are four living subspecies of R. tarandus, locally known in North America as caribou: R. t. granti (Porcupine caribou), R. t. caribou subdivided into ecotypes: woodland (boreal), woodland (migratory), woodland (montane), R. t. groenlandicus and R. t. pearyi.
(Dieđut, Analyse av den samiske reindriftens økonomiske tilpasning, nr 4, 2006, Sámi Instituhtta, Norden)
Geist (2007) argued that the "true woodland caribou, the uniformly dark, small-maned type with the frontally emphasized, flat-beamed antlers", which is "scattered thinly along the southern rim of North American caribou distribution" has been incorrectly classified. He affirms that "true woodland caribou is very rare, in very great difficulties and requires the most urgent of attention."
The name caribou comes, through French, from Mi'kmaq qalipu, meaning "snow shoveler", referring to its habit of pawing through the snow for food. In Inuktitut, spoken in eastern Arctic North America, the caribou is known by the name tuktu.
There are four barren-ground caribou herds in the Northwest Territories—Cape Bathurst, Bluenose West, Bluenose East and Bathurst. The Bluenose East caribou herd began a recovery with a population of approximately 122,000 in 2010. which is being credited to the establishment of Tuktut Nogait National Park. According to T. Davison 2010, CARMA 2011, the three other herds "declined 84–93% from peak sizes in the mid-1980s and 1990s.
There has been considerable public debate regarding the number of reindeer in Finnmark since the passing of the 1978 Reindeer Herding Act and this discussion intensified in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s The commonly stated mainstream view is that there are too many reindeer and that the number of reindeer should be reduced, for environmental reasons, as it is argued that reindeer pastures, particularly the lichens in the winter pastures are being severely damaged.
According to the Grubb (2005), Rangifer tarandus is "circumboreal in the tundra and taiga" from "Svalbard, Norway, Finland, Russia, Alaska (USA) and Canada including most Arctic islands, and Greenland, south to northern Mongolia, China (Inner Mongolia; now only domesticated or feral?), Sakhalin Islands, and USA (Northern Idaho and the Great Lakes region). Reindeer were introduced to, and feral in, Iceland, Kerguelen Islands, South Georgia Island, Pribilof Islands, St. Matthew Island."
There are seven subspecies of reindeer of which only two are found in Fennoscandia: Eurasian tundra (or mountain) reindeer (R. t. tarandus) in Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia and Eurasian forest reindeer R. t. fennicus in Finland and Russia.
... Spain, Italy and southern Russia. Reindeer [was] particularly abundant in the Magdalenian deposits from the late part of the 4-Wurm just before the end of the Ice Age: at that time and at the early Mesolithic it was the game animal for many tribes. The supply began to get low during the Mesolithic, when reindeers retired to the north.
(The Encycloapedia of Saami Culture) Districts, Siidas and Siida units
Around 4000 reindeer have been introduced into the French sub-Antarctic archipelago of Kerguelen Islands.
There is an ox shaped like a stag. In the middle of its forehead a single horn grows between its ears, taller and straighter than the animal horns with which we are familiar. At the top this horn spreads out like the palm of a hand or the branches of a tree. The females are of the same form as the males, and their horns are the same shape and size.
While overall widespread and numerous, some of its subspecies are rare and at least one has already become extinct. For this reason, it is considered to be vulnerable by the IUCN.
In 2008, the Teshekpuk Lake herd had 64,107 animals and the Central Arctic herd had 67,000.
Reindeer antler is powdered and sold as an aphrodisiac, nutritional or medicinal supplement to Asian markets.