There are no wild reindeer on earth, but that’s only by a technicality.
Reindeer are by definition smaller, domesticated caribou, which means technically that there are no “wild” reindeer in the world.
So what do people do with captive reindeer, you may be wondering? Think of them as an arctic camel.
Their feet are wide and well suited for trudging through the snow and slush, making them the ideal pack animal for anyone who lives north of the tree line.
Like camels and cattle in other parts of the world, they are also used for milk, hide, and meat.
Many northern nomadic tribes in Russia, Mongolia, and Scandinavia tailored their lives around the nomadic rhythms of the reindeer for thousands of years. Some still do.
These extreme northern cultures are under threat of extinction, however, due to international land boundaries and modern technology.
Although some tribal communities continue to do things the old way, from using parts of the reindeer for clothing, tools, shelter, and food to migrating with the roaming herds, it’s also not uncommon today to see parka-clad tribe members on snowmobiles with radios.
Caribou and reindeer numbers have fluctuated historically, but many herds are in decline, and this is linked to climate change and industrial disturbance of caribou habitat.