A Sleighful of Science About Reindeer

No matter which winter holiday you celebrate, I wish you the very best of the season. For those raised in the Santa Claus tradition, here are some festive facts about reindeer! 1) Reindeer and caribou are the same species, Rangifer tarandus. Some people use the common name “reindeer” for the European subspecies, and “caribou” for the North American subspecies. Others prefer to use “reindeer” for domestic herds, saving “caribou” for wild herds. For our holiday purposes, I will stick with reindeer! 2) Yes, there ARE domestic herds! Reindeer herding has been practiced by Indigenous peoples across Europe and Asia for...

Animal Adoptions – Fitness, Altruism, and Feelings

One of my weirdest experiences¬†as a scientist was doing a¬†maternity test on an elk. A female elk wearing a Jasper National Park ear tag had been found on an Alberta elk farm. Since it’s illegal to keep wild animals in captivity, that was pretty clear evidence of a crime. What was less clear was whether the calf she was mothering belonged to her. Wildlife officers said yes – the rancher had “kidnapped” two elk. The rancher said no way – that baby had been born to one of his captive elk, and legally belonged to him. A DNA test...