Five Fascinating Reindeer Facts

December 20, 2023

It’s the holiday season! What better time to learn about reindeer—also known as caribou in North America. Learn more about these fascinating animals with our five facts today.

1. Reindeer eyes change colors with the season.

During the summer, reindeer eyes are golden; in the winter, they turn a striking blue. This is due to the physiological changes in the eye that take place when pupils dilate to adapt to extremely low light conditions in the Arctic.

2. Other than Santa’s magic reindeer, they can’t fly, but they can swim.

Reindeer are excellent swimmers and can cross rivers and lakes with ease. They use their wide, concave hooves to paddle efficiently, making them well-suited for aquatic travel.

Photo Credit: ©WCS Arctic Beringia

3. Rudolph was onto something with his red nose. It helps with blood flow!

In extremely cold temperatures, reindeer noses may take on a pinkish hue. This color change is due to the dilation of blood vessels in the nose, which helps to increase blood flow and, in turn, heat production.

4. They have hairy feet.

Built for subzero temperatures, reindeer are covered in hair from their nose to the bottom of their feet! The hair on their hooves provides a good grip when trekking over frozen landscapes, serving as built-in snowshoes.

5. Caribou (North America’s version of the reindeer) require large ranges.

These animals live in boreal and mountain regions as well as the Arctic. Unfortunately, many populations are in decline. Over the past 150 years, caribou have lost about 40 percent of their southern range.

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