Reindeer, Bear, Cougar Close Encounters

It has come to my attention that there are people in the US who think Reindeer are fictional animals. That make sense because they are associated in may people’s minds [SPOILER ALERT] with a fictional character known as ….

…Santa Claus. Others may know that Caribou exist but think that Reindeer are fictional.

It turns out that Reindeer and Caribou are different words for the same beast, which lives in a circum-Arctic distribution in colder climates. As I mention here tangentially, and in relation to birds, Caribou is one of those species that has head gear (in this case, antler) on both males and females, and possibly for interesting evolutionary reasons.

Anyway, apparently Santa lost two of his reindeer on the highway in Texas recently and caused quite a stir:

At least these Reindeer did not come to the same morbid end as this bear in Saint Paul:

… police received at least two calls about bear sightings in the Dayton’s Bluff neighborhood just before 7:30 p.m. Saturday. He says officers shot the bear just before 8 p.m. Animal control officers took the bear’s body away.

Which brings us now to this photograph taken by my sister and brother-in-law in their backyard just the other day:

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That is not your average kitty cat!

Comments

  1. #1 Artor
    December 19, 2011

    I think there is a difference between North American caribou and European reindeer. The American ones are, I think, substantially larger than their old-world cousins. I could be wrong, but I’ve seen caribou stand about 4-5 feet high at the shoulder, whereas it seems 4 feet is huge for a reindeer. Am I wrong?
    On a semi-related note, try to describe an American moose to a European. It will be almost impossible to convince them of a moose’s size. It’s like they can’t conceive of an animal larger than a deer or horse.

  2. #2 Greg Laden
    December 19, 2011

    There is one species of “Reindeer/Caribou”: Rangifer tarandus. The word “caribou” is used in North America.

    There is a lot of variation across this species, but the major variation is not really Old World vs. New World, but rather, tundra vs. woodland, which is more or less a north-south distinction. The woodland tend to be the larger ones. Among these broad types there are probably nine or ten subspecies known at present or recently (some extinct such as the Greenland form). In some subspecies, the males are double the mass of the females.

    The smallest subspecies is probably the Norwegian tundra Reindeer. The largest reindeer

    If you were looking at Norwegian females and comparing them to Canadian Woodland males, the difference would appear huge!

  3. #3 Eric Lund
    December 19, 2011

    The European version (or at least the Swedish version) of the Santa Claus legend places his headquarters not at the North Pole but in northern Finland. This location makes more sense than the North Pole because not only are reindeer native to the area, but there is a longstanding cultural tradition among the locals of herding reindeer–an ideal location to recruit and train reindeer to pull a sleigh full of toys.

  4. #4 Ol' Bab
    December 19, 2011

    What a tease! WHERE was that cat seen? I have seen a large cat near my home southeast of Rochester NY. Large as a poodle (not toy), slim, black, long long tail. Very definitely feline.
    Ol’ Bab

  5. #5 Greg Laden
    December 19, 2011

    That photo of the cat is from the western part of the country.

  6. #6 Roland
    December 19, 2011

    The North American moose is the same animal as the European elk. The North American elk is the same animal as the European wapiti. If you’re not confused, you’re not paying attention.

  7. #7 Greg Laden
    December 19, 2011

    And the European Robin, once thought a thrush, is a flycatcher, but the American Robin is still a thrush. I think.

  8. #8 HP
    December 20, 2011

    American hawks are European buzzards, but American buzzards are not buzzards at all.

  9. #9 Lassi Hippeläinen
    December 20, 2011

    And American cuddle-an-oblong-object isn’t football at all.

  10. #10 Rick Pikul
    December 20, 2011

    Actually, American football is a variant of Rugby football. While it isn’t Association football, it’s still a close cousin, (the Rugby/Association split was over just two rules, one of which is a moot point without the other).

  11. #11 Greg Laden
    December 20, 2011

    I’ve often thought a rugby-football hybrid should be invented. Kinda like back-crossing.

    I never knew much about rugby (other than that my friend Debra played it). Then, I found myself in urban South Africa during a major, major Rugby world cup thingie. I think it was the South African team vs. the NZ team. So, I watched a few matches and it is amazing how much it resembles football, and it is even pretty clear how football derived from rugby rather than the other way round.