Reindeer: Santa’s helpers?
What would an Arctic landscape be without reindeer? On the hillside behind the polar bear exhibit you’ll find a small herd of reindeer, more commonly called caribou in North America. They are most visible in the morning when they’re eating their breakfast. The herd is descended from Siberian reindeer in Alaska, where they enjoy a warm summer season. To keep them comfy, we’ve placed misters in the pine trees and provided a shallow wading pool.
In most deer species, only the males grow antlers. But reindeer and their close relatives, the caribou, are the exception to the rule: both males and females grow these bony structures, but at different times of the year! Male reindeer begin to grow antlers in February; these “tools” are then ready to be used for jousting and impressing the females during the fall breeding season. The males shed their antlers by November. The females begin to grow their antlers in May and keep these handy weapons through the winter birthing season to protect their young. So who really pulls Santa’s famous sleigh? Female reindeer!