Get to know the Svalbard reindeer
On the vast tundra of Svalbard, surrounded by a magnificent landscape, the Svalbard reindeer roam. This unique subspecies is a true survivor, robustly adapted to a world of extreme climate and limited resources. In this blog post, you will learn more about this magestic animal that lives exclusively in the solitude of the Arctic wilderness.
The Svalbard reindeer is a unique subspecies of wild reindeer found only on Svalbard. It is the smallest subspecies of reindeer and is characterised by its short legs. The Svalbard reindeer has adapted well to the harsh climate of Svalbard. They are very sedentary and thus have low energy needs, and they have an outstanding ability to use their own body reserves when food availability is limited in the winter. The thick fur also helps to insulate against low temperatures and wind. Continue reading to discover more about the fascinating features of the Svalbard reindeer.
Weight and Length: In spring, the males weigh about 65 kg and in autumn 90 kg, while females weigh 53 kg in spring and 70 kg in autumn. Males are approximately 160 cm in length and females 150 cm.
Horns and Fur: The males develop large antlers from April to July and shed the velvet from them in August to September, while they lose them early in the winter. The females develop smaller horns that are often kept throughout the year. The thick fur helps with insulation and gives a more robust appearance. The colour of the fur varies with the season, being lighter in the winter than in the summer, often light grey or yellowish-white.
Living in small groups: The Svalbard reindeer lives in small family groups rather than in larger herds. This social structure is different from many other reindeer populations.
Varied diet: The Svalbard reindeer eats most of the available vegetation. In the winter, they seek areas with less snow, and in the summer, they eat a lot to build up fat reserves. As part of the Arctic ecosystem, the Svalbard reindeer plays an important role in the nature of Svalbard. Through its grazing, it affects the vegetation and interacts with other wild species, contributing to the dynamics of the ecosystem.
Reproduction: Mating occurs in October, with a gestation period of seven months and birth in June. Females usually start reproducing at the age of three. The calf's body mass at birth is about three kilograms, and it then increases by seven to eight kilograms per month during its first summer.
Lifespan and Population Growth: The average lifespan is about ten years, but the oldest recorded animal reached 17 years. Extensive hunting until 1925 reduced the population, but conservation measures led to recovery and expansion. The population size has increased in recent decades with varying sizes in monitored areas.
Distribution: The Svalbard reindeer is primarily found on Nordenskiöldslandet in the centre of Spitsbergen, but it is also present on other islands such as Edgeøya, Barentsøya and parts of Nordaustlandet.
Source: Norsk Polarinstitutt
Please note: We always follow strict wildlife guidelines to ensure that we do not cause any disturbance.
Since 1999, we have taken travellers on once-in-a-lifetime trips to Svalbard. From May to September our three small expedition ships, carrying only 12 and 50 passengers, explore this magnificent Arctic archipelago. Unpredictability and flexibility are the main keywords when you travel with PolarQuest as the exact route depends on weather, ice conditions and wildlife encounters. Sometimes you might be woken up in the middle of the night if a polar bear has been spotted on the ice.