It looks like Rudolf won’t be joining in this reindeer game anytime soon. Researchers in Norway have found that a new snow sport could be bad news for wild reindeer.
While wild reindeer have coexisted peacefully with more traditional snow sport enthusiasts such as skiers, snowkiters seem to have them spooked. Researchers writing in the journal of Applied Animal Behaviour Science found that reindeer numbers will drop by 7.5 percent when just over 100 skiers are nearby. But if a similar number of snowkiters are zipping along at speeds of at least 12 mph, 100 percent of reindeer will flee the area.
What’s more, snowkiters have a much broader range than skiers, with many using wind power to explore distant backcountry that would be exhausting to ski to and through. And those kites are big and visible at a distance, potentially scaring reindeer for miles around.
With more and more snowkiters frequenting the areas where Santa’s hooved helpers live, researchers are concerned that the sport could have “very negative population consequences.” If the reindeer perceive a continued threat from the snowkiters, they may abandon their habitat to the snowkiters altogether and seek sanctuary elsewhere. All of which is bad news especially as Norway is home to some of the last populations of wild reindeer on Earth.
The study recommended that trails be established and regulated to avoid interaction with reindeer herds. At present there are no such restrictions in Norway. With some careful planning, Christmas might be saved after all.
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