Rangifer tarandus

In the Pleistocene Epoch, Reindeer herds were found as far south as Tennessee.  Their numbers have fluctuated historically, but many herds are in decline across their range, which is extremely northern climates.  One factor in global decline is climate change for northern migratory caribou.  Another factor is the industrial disturbance of reindeer habitat for the sedentary, non-migratory herds.  At the same time, at least one conservation effort has backfired in the South Alantic islands of South Georgia.  In 2011, a decision was made to rid the island of reindeer because of the environmental damage they cause.

Some herds migrate the farthest of any land mammal, traveling up to 3,100 miles a year and grazing 390,000 square miles.  When migrating, they will travel 12-34 miles per day.  The gray wolf is the most common and efficient predator of the reindeer, and a pack will live off of one herd for months.  Other predators include the golden eagle, wolverines, and many types of bears.

The North PoleMost recognize the reindeer for their role in driving Santa’s sleigh, and they are in fact used for work in some parts of the world.  While the caribou is hard to come by in the south, the swamp folk know that Bayou Santa, or Papa Noel, uses the Louisiana Alligator for his deliveries.