Jennifer has taught elementary levels K-3 and has master's degrees in elementary education and curriculum/instruction and educational leadership.
Common Image of Reindeer
We all know about that famous reindeer with the red nose that people sing about during the Christmas holiday. Our culture has created a cartoon image of what a reindeer looks like. In reality, this animal has very interesting characteristics that make it much different from that holiday image we are most familiar with.
Reindeer belong to the deer species (which caribou are also a part of). Reindeer males, called bulls, have large horns and bodies covered with soft fur. Females are called cows, and most female varieties also have horns, though their horns are somewhat smaller than those of a bull. A baby deer is called a calf, and they have to grow quickly in order to survive in the wild.
These animals have very strong legs to enable them to run quickly and even swim across rivers, if needed. Their hooves can change to adapt to the season. In the summertime, their hooves get softer, which helps them walk on softer ground. In the winter, they become stronger in order to avoid slipping on snow and ice.
Habitat and Diet
Reindeer are able to live in cold, snowy climates. They are naturally found in the Arctic and in the mountains of Europe and North America. Reindeer are herbivores, which means they eat only plants. They often dig in the snow to find lichens, plant-like objects very closely related to algae and fungus. Leaves, grasses and mushrooms are also favorite foods for reindeer.
Surviving in the Wild
Reindeer can run very fast for a reason--they have quite a few predators. Coyotes and wolverines are natural enemies, as are brown bears and polar bears. Even hawks and eagles have been known to attack and eat reindeer to survive. Another enemy of reindeer is extremely small: Blood-sucking insects feast on reindeer to survive.
Along with running fast, reindeer have developed other ways of protecting themselves from predators as well as the cold weather. For example, reindeer are herd animals, meaning they like to graze and travel in large groups. This provides protection from many of the predators who may be lurking for a reindeer snack!
The hairs in a reindeer's coat are also special. These hairs trap air and provide warmth for the reindeer when temperatures are low. And amazingly, their noses are actually able to warm up the air that they breathe before it enters their bodies!
Reindeer are members of the deer family, and these animals can survive cold climates thanks to special physical adaptations that help them survive. They are herbivores, and they snack on grasses, leaves and lichens, and the live in herds as a defense against predators. Males are called bulls, while females are called cows (though both usually have antlers), and the babies are called calves.
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