Reindeers and their food in a hotter world


Tomorrow is the 6th of December and therefore it is Saint Nicholas Day. As the Christmas stories of Nicholas are well connected to the reindeer we will have a closer look at them.

Reindeers are animals that live in one of the harshest regions around the world, the Arctic.

The temperatures around here can go down to minus 40 degrees Celsius and Fahrenheit. During most of the year, snow and ice reign everywhere around there. Some animals like the reindeer have adapted and manage to survive in those tough weather conditions.

Some of these adaptations also have something to do with their excrements and how they use them. Now you know our reason, why we want to talk to you about it. One of the hardest parts to survive during the winter months in the Arctic is to find food and with it, enough nutrients. Reindeers are herbivore and eat during the summer time all types of mosses, berries, grasses, herbs and mushrooms. As this food is not available during the colder months, they mainly eat lichens. These lichens are hard to get under the snow.

Besides, they don’t provide all the needed nutrients. For minerals and proteins, they are biting antlers and bones. Urine and seaweed are their source of extra salt and nitrogen. As a side fact, Siberian sledge drivers pee into the snow to gather the herd.

As the climate crisis changes the Arctic also the reindeers have to adapt even more. Longer summer should make it easier for them, but the opposite is true. Due to higher temperatures, it is raining more often in the winter months and the fallen rain creates an ice shield over the lichens. The reindeers cannot break this shield and starve to death. In Spitzbergen, the reindeers found a way out: they are eating the goose droppings. One gram of goose poop is like eating four grams of plant material and therefore is like an energy bar for the reindeers.

For more animal stories and their poop, stay interested and join us for a better resource use!