Rangifer tarandus

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
ANIMALIA CHORDATA MAMMALIA CETARTIODACTYLA CERVIDAE

Scientific Name: Rangifer tarandus
Species Authority: (Linnaeus, 1758)
Common Name(s):
English Reindeer, Caribou, Peary Caribou
French Renne, RENNE
Spanish Reno, RENO

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2008
Date Assessed: 2008-06-30
Assessor(s): Henttonen, H. & Tikhonov, A.
Reviewer(s): Black, P., González, S. (Deer Red List Authority) & Schipper, J. (Global Mammal Assessment Team)
Justification:
This species is listed as Least Concern due to a wide circumpolar distribution and presumed large populations.

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 North America, the range formerly extended as far south as central Idaho, the Great Lakes area, and northern New England - however, wild populations currently remain only in Alaska, Canada, Washington, and northern Idaho. 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 subspecies 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).
Countries:
Native:
Canada; Finland; Greenland; Mongolia; Norway; Russian Federation; Svalbard and Jan Mayen; United States
Regionally extinct:
Sweden
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: There are large numbers of reindeer (locally known as caribou) in North America.

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 semi domesticated 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).

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 semi domesticated 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). Two separate populations of this species are present in Mongolia (Litvinov and Bazardorj, 1992). No robust data on population trends or abundance are currently available, although the total Mongolian population is believed to consist of fewer than 1,000 individuals.
Population Trend: Stable

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: This species inhabits arctic (including tussock tundra and sedge meadow) and subarctic tundra, open montane habitats, and open woodland, often on high mountain slopes and in alpine zones at elevations of 2,300-3,000 meters, where it feeds on lichens, mosses herbs, ferns, grasses, and shoots and leaves of deciduous shrubs and trees (especially willow--Salix spp.--and birch--Betula spp.).

A social deer, this species forms large regional herds of 50,000-500,000 animals which band together during the spring, although this herd is composed of generally single-sex subgroups with 10-1,000 individuals. Rutting takes place about October. Young are born in May and June after a gestation of about 228 days. One or two young are born; they wean at about 6 months; reach maturity at 2.5-3.5 years; and live up to 20 years. Thick fur and short tail are adaptations to extreme cold winters. Its ability to smell and find lichens and other food under snow is a special adaptation. The major predators are bears and wolves.

A highly nomadic species, caribou may travel 5,000 km/3,000 miles in a year, the longest documented movements of any terrestrial mammal. In addition, most populations undertake extensive migrations in the spring and fall, travelling. During these migrations, herds move at a rate of 19-55 kilometers/11-33 miles per day. The caribou's maximum running speed is 60-80 kmph/36-48 mph. Caribou are excellent swimmers, and will readily cross large rivers or lakes. When swimming, adults can maintain a speed of 6.5 kpmh / 4 mph, and when pressed can swim at 10 kmph / 6 mph. Population densities are very sparse - generally 0.5 animals per square kilometre of suitable habitat. However, during the migration period, concentrations may exceed 19,000 animals per square kilometre. 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; Vevers and Pinner, 1948). The species migrates seasonally in Mongolia, but not over long distances (Litvinov and Bazardorj, 1992).
Systems: Terrestrial

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): The Porcupine caribou herd in northeastern Alaska and adjacent northwestern Canada and the adjacent Central Arctic herd are potentially threatened by onshore petroleum exploration and development; industrial development on the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge could increase calf mortality if calving were displaced south and east of potential development areas (Fancy and Whitten 1991). However, Pollard et al. (1996) documented high use of oil fields by caribou during periods of high mosquito and fly activity.

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. Hybridisation with semi domesticated reindeer is a potential problem for some subspecies and subpopulations (H. Henttonen pers. comm. 2006, Ruusila and Kojola in press).

White-tailed deer carry and disperse into the environment meningeal worms that usually are fatal to moose and caribou but are clinically benign in deer; hence, white-tailed deer, through worm-mediated impacts, commonly are believed to exclude moose and caribou from areas where deer occur (see Schmitz and Nudds 1994). Predation by an expanding coyote population threatened a remnant caribou herd in southeastern Quebec (Crete and Desrosiers 1995). Long-term steady decline in the taiga-dwelling population in Ontario has been associated with the expansion of forest harvesting (Schaefer 2003).

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 semi domesticated 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.

In China the species is rare; only a few hundred animals remain there. Most of its habitat was burned in great fires in 1986. It is listed on the China Red List as Not Applicable.

Bibliography [top]

Andersen, R. and Hustad, H. 2004. Villrein og Samfunn. En Veiledning til Bevaring av Europas Siste Villreinfjell. NINA Temahefte 27.

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Bazardorj, D. and Sukhbat, K. 1984. Hunting Farms and Game Hunting in Hövsgöl Province. Erkh choloo, Moron.

Bevanger, K. and Jordhøy, P. 2004. Villrein – fjellets nomade.

Corbet, G. B. 1978. The Mammals of the Palaearctic Region: a Taxonomic Review. British Museum (Natural History) and Cornell University Press, London, UK and Ithaca, NY, USA.

Fancy, S. G. and Whitten, K. R. 1991. Selection of calving sites by Porcupine herd caribou.

Grubb, P. 2005. Artiodactyla. In: D. E. Wilson and D. M. Reeder (eds), Mammal Species of the World. A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference (3rd ed), pp. 637-722. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, USA.

Hall, E.R. 1981. The Mammals of North America. John Wiley and Sons, New York, USA.

Herre, W. 1986. Rangifer tarandus (Linnaeus, 1758) - Ren, Rentier. In: J. Niethammer and F. Krapp (eds), Handbuch der Säugetiere Europas, Band 2/II Paarhufer, Akademische Verlagsgesellschaft, Wiesbaden, Germany.

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Ministry of Nature and Environment. 1996. Biodiversity Conservation Action Plan for Mongolia. Ministry of Nature and Environment, Ulaanbaatar.

Ministry of Nature and Environment. 1997. Mongolian Red Book. In: Ts. Shiirevdamba, O. Shagdarsuren, G. Erdenejav, T. Amgalan, and Ts. Tsetsegmaa (eds). ADMON Printing, Ulaanbaatar.

Namnandorj, O. 1976. Hunting Prohibited Animals. In: Sh. Tsegmed and S. Dulamtseren (eds), Mongolian Strictly Protected Areas and Hunting Prohibited Animals, pp. 75-189. Publishing House of the Mongolian Academy of Science, Ulaanbaatar.

Nowak, R.M. 1991. Walker's Mammals of the World. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, USA and London, UK.

Roed, K. 1997. Influence of selection and management on the genetic structure of reindeer populations. Department of Morphology, Genetics and Aquatic Biology, Norwegian College of Veterinary Medicine.

Ruusila, V. and Kojola, I. In press. Ungulate management in Finland. In: M. Apollonio, R. Andersen and R. Putman (eds), Ungulate Management in Europe in the XXI Century.

Shagdarsuren, O., Jigi, S., Tsendjav, D., Dulamtseren, S., Bold, A., Munkhbayar, Kh., Dulmaa, A., Erdenejav, G., Olziihutag, N., Ligaa, U. and Sanchir, Ch. 1987. Mongolian Red Book. Publishing House of the Mongolian Academy of Sciences, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.

Sheng, H. I. and Ohtaishi, N. 1993. The status of deer in China. In: N. Ohtaishi and H. I. Sheng (eds), Deer of China: Biology and Management, pp. 8. Elsevier, Oxford, UK.

Sokolov, V. E. and Orlov, V. N. 1980. Guide to the Mammals of Mongolia. Pensoft, Moscow, Russia.

Vevers, G. M. and Pinner, E. 1948. Animals of the U.S.S.R. W. Heinemann, London, UK.

Whitehead, K. G. 1993. The Whitehead Encyclopedia of Deer. Voyageur Press, Inc, Stillwater, MN, USA.

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Wilson, D. E. and Ruff, S. 1999. The Smithsonian Book of North American Mammals. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, DC, USA.


Citation: Henttonen, H. & Tikhonov, A. 2008. Rangifer tarandus. In: The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.3. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 28 November 2014.
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