Rangifer tarandus 

Scope: Europe
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Mammalia Cetartiodactyla Cervidae

Scientific Name: Rangifer tarandus (Linnaeus, 1758)
Regional Assessments:
Common Name(s):
English Reindeer, Caribou, Peary Caribou
French Renne
Spanish Reno
Cervus tarandus Linnaeus, 1758
Taxonomic Notes: There are three subspecies: Finnish forest reindeer (Rangifer tarandus fennicus), Mountain reindeer (R.t. tarandus) and Svalbard reindeer (R.t. platyrhynchus).

Populations of Snohetta, Rondane, Knutsho and Solnketten in Southern Norway represent the original wild mountain reindeer in reasonably pure form (Bevanger and Jordhoy 2004, Bevanger pers. comm. to W. Frey) These populations have had little contact with domestic reindeer whilst mixing of both forms has occurred to a larger extend in the populations of the Hardangervidda and others. Genetic investigations did not indicate any inflow of domestic genes into the four populations in question (Roed 1997, Roed pers. comm. to W. Frey). There are also populations of free roaming reindeer in Southern Norway that have been founded with domestic individuals. Unfortunately three of these – Ottadalsomrädet, Forollhogna and Solnkletten – are adjacent to the pure populations, thus constituting a permanent danger to their genetic integrity.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern (Regional assessment) ver 3.1
Year Published: 2007
Date Assessed: 2006-05-19
Needs updating
Assessor(s): Heikki Henttonen, Alexei Tikhonov
Reviewer(s): Craig Hilton-Taylor and Helen Temple
European regional assessment: Least Concern (LC)
EU 25 regional assessment: Least Concern (LC)

The species is Least Concern at the European level. It is still fairly widespread and abundant in Norway, although there have been marked declines in the Russian, and parts of the Finnish, portions of the range.

The only EU country that the reindeer occurs in is Finland. Although the Finnish population is small (c.2,200 individuals), and although there have been recent declines in the western subpopulation, overall numbers are increasing. Consequently the species is classed as Least Concern. Wild reindeer went extinct in Finland last century, and ongoing conservation action is required to ensure continuing recovery.

The Novaya Zemlya subspecies pearsoni is Endangered under C2a(ii). The population is less than 1,000 mature individuals, found on a single subpopulation on an isolated island, which is undergoing continuing decline (the reason for which is currently unknown).

The Svalbard subspecies platyrhynchus is Least Concern. Although it has a small population of c.10,000, it is not declining and there are no major threats.

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:The reindeer has a circumpolar distribution in the tundra and taiga zones of northern Europe, Siberia, and North America (Corbet 1978, Hall 1981, Koubek and Zima 1999, Wilson and Ruff 1999). In Europe, wild populations have a fragmented distribution in Norway (including the island of Svalbard, where there is a separate subspecies R. t. platyrhynchus), Finland, and Russia (including the island of Novaya Zemlya, which also has an endemic subpecies R. t. pearsoni) (Herre 1986, Koubek and Zima 1999). In Finland, wild reindeer occur in two isolated subpopulations, one in the west and one in the east. Semi-domesticated reindeer are widespread in Lappland, and a feral population has historically become established on Iceland (Koubek and Zima 1999); these populations are not shown on the distribution map. It occurs from sea level to at least 2,000 m in Norway (Herre 1986).
Countries occurrence:
Finland; Norway; Russian Federation; Svalbard and Jan Mayen
Regionally extinct:
Additional data:
Upper elevation limit (metres):2000
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:There are approximately 30,000 wild reindeer in southern Norway and 10,000 in Svalbard (Andersen and Hustad 2004). The population trend in Norway is believed to be stable, and hunting is controlled. In Finland, forest reindeer (subspecies R. t. fennicus) were driven extinct in the early 1900s, but are now starting to recover as a result of animals moving in from Karelia in Russia and from some captive bred stock that were released (Ruusila and Kojola in press). Forest Reindeer remain very rare in Finland (about 1,200 in the eastern subpopulation and 1,000 individuals in the western subpopulation). The Finnish population trend is difficult to determine, as the population in eastern Finland has expanded rapidly from c. 40 reintroduced individuals in 1980 to c.1,200 today, whereas the western subpopulation has declined from c.1,800 to c.1,000 during 2001-2006 (although in the last few years prior to 2001 it had been increasing) (H. Henttonen pers. comm. 2006, Ruusila and Kojola in press). Overall, the current Finnish population trend is one of growth rather than decline. Numbers in European Russia are very low with presumed ongoing declines, and the reindeer is now absent from large tracts of tundra and taiga. It is not known whether the small Kola Peninsula population in Russia is derived from autochthonous wild reindeer or from semidomesticated animals (A. Tikhonov pers. comm. 2006). The Novaya Zemlya subspecies pearsoni has a small population (less than 1,000 mature individuals), which is undergoing continuing decline (A. Tikhonov pers. comm. 2006). The reindeer's status in Asia is poorly known, although it is significantly more abundant there than in Europe, with a population estimated at 400,000 in the 1950s (Koubek and Zima 1999). There are also large numbers of reindeer (locally known as caribou) in North America. The feral population in Iceland numbers c.1000, and there are approximately 0.5 million semi-domesticated reindeer in Lappland (H. Henttonen pers. comm. 2006).
Current Population Trend:Unknown
Additional data:
Population severely fragmented:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:It inhabits arctic and subarctic tundra, open montane habitats, and open woodland, where it feeds on lichens, mosses, grasses, and shoots and leaves of deciduous shrubs and trees (especially willow Salix spp. and birch Betula spp.). In North America it is a migratory species, making seasonal movements from the coast in summer to the interior in winter, but in Europe reindeer are more sedentary (Herre 1986).
Generation Length (years):5-6

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Poaching is a major threat in the Russian Federation (A. Tikhonov pers. comm. 2006). The causes of decline of the Novaya Zemlya subspecies pearsoni are not known (A. Tikhonov pers. comm. 2006). Loss of habitat in Finland (through logging) may pose problems, and there is increased disturbance to the species in some areas due to winter sporting activities. Hybridization with semidomesticated reindeer is a potential problem for some subspecies and subpopulations (H. Henttonen pers. comm. 2006, Ruusila and Kojola in press).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: It is listed on Appendix III of the Bern Convention. Subspecies R. t. fennicus is strictly protected under Annex II of the EU Habitats and Species Directive. In eastern parts of Russia there are strict anti-hunting measures in place, but there is continued poaching (A. Tikhonov pers. comm. 2006). Hunting in Norway is also strictly controlled. In Finland, a large fence has been constructed between areas occupied by semidomesticated reindeer and forest reindeer, to prevent hybridisation (Koubek and Zima 1999, H. Henttonen pers. comm. 2006). Research is urgently required to determine the causes of population decline of R. t. pearsoni on Novaya Zemlya, and to identify appropriate conservation actions.

Citation: Heikki Henttonen, Alexei Tikhonov. 2007. Rangifer tarandus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2007: e.T29742A9528166. . Downloaded on 18 November 2017.
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