Surviving Winter

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Spitsbergen Reindeer

The Reindeer on Spitsbergen are a separate subspecies which only lives on Spitsbergen. In this time of year they still have their white winter fur. Even though not much vegetation has started to grow yet, they are eating the old vegetation, happy they can eat something again. During summer and autumn they have to fatten up to to survive winter. In winter they live mostly on their fat reserves, but need to feed a little. Their main dish in winter are lichen, which they find on the more windswept ridges. In those places there is less snow, which makes the lichen more accessible. However, in the last decade the winter temperatures are getting higher, resulting in more rain. This water percolates through the snow and then freezing on the permafrost. This layer of ice covers the little lichen accessible to the reindeer. Because of this they can’t reach the lichen anymore, so in years with a lot of rain many reindeer starve to death.

This reindeer had apparently survived winter and now started his new cycle of eating to get ready for the next winter.

Arjen Drost

Arjen is a Polar ecologist, nature photographer and full time expedition guide on expedition cruise ships in both Polar regions. With his pictures and stories he likes to show the beauty of these very fragile and threatened places.

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