Dead reindeer baffles conservationists

The deceased mammal was found washed up on Coquet Island.

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The reindeer was washed up on Coquet Island © Paul Morrison

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Wildlife conservationists working on Coquet Island in Northumberland were surprised to find a dead reindeer on the tiny island.

Reindeer are not inhabitants of the island, and the only free-ranging reindeer in the UK are an introduced herd in the Cairngorms (read more about these reindeer in the December 2016 issue of BBC Wildlife).

“It was an extraordinary thing to see!” says Paul Morrison, who spotted the reindeer during a survey of the island. “I’ve no idea where it came from, perhaps from a farm along the coast. Coquet’s better known for its seabirds, such as the UK’s only roseate tern colony.”

Reindeer, known as caribou in North America, are the northernmost species of deer and are found in the tundra and taiga zones of the Northern Hemisphere.

Their diet consists mainly of a lichen called reindeer moss (Cladonia rangiferina), as well as herbs, grasses and mushrooms during summer.

Reindeer are the only deer species in which the females also grow antlers. Click here to find out more (and why some scientists say Santa’s sleigh is pulled by female reindeer)

Find out how you could join our amazing reader holiday to reindeer, polar bears and other Arctic wildlife.

Read more wildlife news stories in BBC Wildlife Magazine

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