In the winter between 2013 and 2014, 61,000 reindeer starved to death in the Yamal peninsula of Russia. In addition to this, in the winter between 2018 and 2019, 200 reindeer didn’t survive the winter in Svalbard, Norway.
The main reason for the crashing reindeer population is climate change. The warmer winters have made it nearly impossible for reindeer to access their food source.
Varying climate during the winter cause the snow in reindeer habitats to melt and refreeze. The frozen water forms ice sheets on the ground. These ice sheets trap reindeer’s main winter food source, lichen. Due to the reindeer being unable to access their food by breaking the ice, they die of starvation trying to find the food they can smell beneath the ice.
The Yamal Nenet, an indigenous people from the Yamal peninsula, rely heavily on reindeer to survive. They herd reindeer and eat them as one of their main food sources. Unfortunately, due to the rapidly declining number of reindeer in the region, the Yamal people will have to either turn to a new food source or spend what little money they have on reindeer feed.
However, climate change is not the only reason for reindeer starvation. There are vast amounts of industries that are moving to reindeer habitats. One of which being the iron ore industry. 90% of the EU’s iron ore being supplied by Sweden. With iron mines being placed on reindeer grazing land, food is decreasing further.
In addition to mining, a large amount of logging takes place in reindeer habitats. Regardless of the disruption of food and land space, noise pollution causes reindeer great distress. The sheer amount of logging trucks and noise from cutting trees down scare reindeer into leaving their habitat, away from a natural food source.
The forth factor that has effected the reindeer population is the flooding caused by hydroelectric dams. The flooding causes reindeer food supplies to dwindle and make the land unlivable for them.