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Reindeer are shrinking because of climate change

Reindeer are shrinking because of climate change


Stop global warming; do it for Rudolph

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Britain's Only Reindeer Herd Prepare For Christmas In The Cairngorms National Park
Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Global warming has taken yet another thing from us: reindeer. The Christmas icons are shrinking because climate change has hurt their food access, researchers say, just in time for the start of the holidays.

Every year since 1994, ecologists have gone up to the Arctic to measure the reindeer. Their data shows that adult reindeer have shrunk by about 12 percent over the years. They were about 106 pounds in 2010, compared to 121 pounds back when they first started measuring. These findings were presented this week at the annual meeting of the British Ecological Society. 

The scientists think that they’re shrinking because global warming is ruining their food and their environment. Given how quickly Arctic ice is melting, this is hardly surprising. Warmer weather brings more rain. This rain leads to more ice, and then it’s harder for reindeer to get food through the thick cover of ice. This leads to stunted babies, or miscarriages. At least 80,000 reindeer have starved to death in the past decade due to the melting ice.

“While I doubt we will see the extinction of reindeer across their circumpolar range, Santa may need more to pull the laden sleigh,” researcher Steve Albon joked to The Telegraph. But joking aside, Albon is worried — and we should be, too.