The biggest predator of reindeer is climate and starvation, not polar bears. As the climate wavers in the Arctic, alternate periods of rain and freeze encase tundra forage in an impenetrable layer of ice. Terrestrial ecologists Åshild Pedersen from the Norwegian Polar Institute and Brage Hansen of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology conduct regular census programs related to climate change.
In a recent study, glaciologist Jack Kohler worked with Hansen and Pedersen to identify icing events over the years and correlate them with reindeer population fluctuations. To a large extent, arctic foxes depend on the reindeer’s bad luck for their own survival, feasting on cadavers. In a good reindeer year like this one with little icing, foxes may suffer, but even in the best of times the Arctic wind and cold is unforgiving for all species, including the Svalbard reindeer, a unique, stockier subspecies of its mainland cousins. Click photo below to see what it’s like out there.
CLICK PHOTO TO COUNT THE REINDEER: