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Reindeer

Of all the deer species found in the UK, the hardest one to find is the reindeer (especially the flying variety).  Reindeer disappeared from the UK about 8,500 years ago, but in 1952 a few were re-introduced from Sweden to the Cairngorm Mountains in the north of Scotland.




The herd there has now grown to over 150.  These animals are well adapted to life in Arctic conditions.  Their thick winter coats are made up of hollow hairs which provide extra insulation, and even their noses are covered in fur to prevent frostbite.

Herd of Reindeer

With most species of deer it's the males which have the antlers.  Reindeer are unusual in that both the males and females have antlers.  Fully grown reindeer antlers are an impressive sight.  They can be 100cm wide and 136cm long.

The older males shed their antlers in December, while the young males drop theirs in early spring.  Females usually keep theirs until the summer, so if you see a reindeer with antlers at Christmas time there's a good chance it'll be a female.

Reindeer

Scientists now believe that the Flying Reindeer used by Santa Claus to propel his sleigh are a very special sub-species (Rangifer magickus).  They spend most of the year at the North Pole, but nature enthusiasts in the UK can sometimes spot them as they pass overhead on Christmas Eve.

Reindeer calves



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