On my search for new topics for the Advent Calendar I was researching what reindeer like to eat. I imagined it would be plants adapted to the cold Northern climate where they live – but I was only partially right. Read on for the schocking truth about the reindeer diet!
In winter, reindeer feed on lichens. Lichens are “dual organisms“, as they are a symbiosis between a fungus and green algae or cyanobacteria, bacteria which perform photosynthesis.
The reindeer’s favourite lichen is Cladonia rangiferina (the “Reindeer Lichen”, or Reindeer Moss). This moss grows only 3-5 mm per year! It also contains bioactive components and is used by the Dena’ina, Native Americans, in tea to treat diarrhea.
If available, reindeer also graze on willow and birch leaves, grasses and sedges. The most surprising discovery for me was however, that reindeer sometimes eat LEMMINGS?!?!
…and if that wasn’t disturbing enough, they also like to nibble on mushrooms with psychoactive ingredients!
I have to admit that I now see good old Rudolph in a different light.