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  • Richard Conniff writes about behavior, in humans and other animals, on two, four, six, and eight legs, plus the occasional slither.

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How the World Looks to Reindeer

Posted by Richard Conniff on December 14, 2015

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This is how the world looks from under the chin of a reindeer on migration in Norway. It’s from a project by the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research, published in the Journal of Animal Ecology.  Here’s how they describe their work:

Taken from GPS collars equipped with wide-angle cameras, these amazing shots represent an unprecedented window into the lives of reindeer, one of the most ancient deer species in the world. Few people are aware that within the heart of Europe there still exist mass migrations as spectacular but more secretive than those in the Serengeti. Yet, reindeer

migrations represent one of the most endangered phenomena in the Northern hemisphere. Wild reindeer are extremely wary of humans, who have been harvesting them since pre-historic times using large-scale pitfall systems. Their anti-predator strategy consists of aggregating in large herds roaming across vast mountain plateau in southern Norway, and avoiding human activities. Following the industrial revolution, the development of anthropogenic infrastructures has therefore led to the fragmentation of the last remaining wild mountain reindeer population into 23 virtually isolated sub-populations, and has hampered/blocked migration routes used since pre-historic times. Due to the increase in tourism, hydropower and other human activities in mountain areas, fragmentation is rapidly ongoing.

Researchers at the Norwegian institute for Nature Research are remotely collecting data on the movements of ca 300 wild reindeer across the major populations in an attempt to better understand reindeer spatial requirements, the reasons underlying migration, quantify the impact of infrastructure, and aid the process of identifying mitigation measures and re-establishing connectivity among key sub-populations. The pictures taken from the cameras incorporated in some of these collars provide unprecedented and precious information on reproduction, feeding habits and other aspects of reindeer behavior, which would be challenging to obtain in other ways, for such secretive animals living in such a harsh environment.

Check out the slide show here.

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