Reindeer in the Heat

It’s not just polar bears the North could lose

Paul Greenberg
3 min readJul 9, 2024

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Svalbard Island in Summer (photo credit: Paul Greenberg)

If Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer actually existed science would have been obligated to make two important points:

1. Either he would have had to have been a she, since northern hemisphere male reindeer shed their antlers before Christmastime while female northern hemisphere reindeer keep them.

2. Or he was a southern hemisphere invasive reindeer (like the ones humans introduced to South Georgia Island in the 19th century) and would have adhered to an opposite seasonal schedule particular to the southern half of the globe. If this were the case then Santa would have had to have opened up a South Pole affiliate office but that’s not what I want to talk about here.

What I want to discuss is a very real factor that determines whether any reindeer will survive in their native habitat in the years ahead.

A few summers ago after circumnavigating the island of Svalbard I encountered reindeer browsing in the interstices between strips of snow that were receding as spring advanced.

Antler-less reindeer on Svalbard (photo credit: Cian Ryan)

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Paul Greenberg

New York Times bestselling author of Four Fish as well as The Climate Diet and Goodbye Phone, Hello World paulgreenberg.org