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'Terrifying' Arctic Find: 200 Dead Reindeer

Climate change blamed for difficult conditions in Norway
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 31, 2019 1:33 AM CDT
Updated Jul 31, 2019 7:24 AM CDT
Wild reindeer forage for food on the island of Spitsbergen, part of the Svalbard archipelago in Norway, on April 20, 2011.   (Ben Birchall/PA, File via AP)

(Newser) – In an ongoing bout with climate change, Arctic reindeer aren't doing so hot. Some 200 of the animals have been found dead on Norway's Svalbard archipelago, each below the average weight of 150 to 200 pounds. The Norwegian Polar Institute, which made the discovery during the annual wild reindeer census, believes the animals died of starvation last winter as a result of altered conditions. Reindeer typically dig away at vegetation hidden beneath snow. But "climate change is making it rain much more," census leader Ashild Onvik Pedersen tells the Guardian. "The rain falls on the snow and forms a layer of ice on the tundra, making grazing conditions very poor."

As the process repeats, ice may become impenetrable. It's an issue exacerbated by greater competition in the area. Svalbard's reindeer population has actually doubled to 22,000 since the 1980s, per USA Today. But experts again blame climate change for causing more reindeer to flood the area. The species vital to the tundra ecosystem must then travel far distances for food, with the young and old not always surviving the journey. Pedersen notes the winter death toll is the worst in 40 years of monitoring the reindeer, with the exception of the winter of 2007-08. "This is a terrifying example of how climate change affects nature," he says, per Science Alert. "It's just sad." (Read more reindeer stories.)

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