The Rangifer genus includes just one species, Rangifer tarandus or reindeer. In North America, representatives of the Rangifer tarandus species are called caribou. There are several subspecies of reindeer and caribou. Reindeer living in Finland are mainly a domesticated form of mountain reindeer (Rangifer tarandus tarandus). The distribution of reindeer is circumpolar, in this case meaning that they occur around the North Pole.

Reindeer have adapted to several different habitats, ranging from mountain areas to forests. In doing so, they have divided into separate subspecies, which are still able to interbreed with each other. Owing to geographic barriers and habitat requirements, the different subspecies do not usually mix.

For example, the Svalbard reindeer (Rangifer tarandus platyrhynchus) looks very different compared to the wild forest reindeer (picture below). There is more similarity between the wild forest reindeer and the North American woodland caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou). A number of North American caribou subspecies are endangered.

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Wild forest reindeer

Latin name: Rangifer tarandus fennicus, a wild "cousin" of the reindeer

Range and numbers:

In Finland, 700 individuals in Kainuu and 1,250 in Suomenselkä

In Russian Karelia up to 2,400, with an estimated 1,500 in Arkhangelsk and 2,500 in Kom (the question of the taxonomic status of wild reindeer of Arkhangelsk province and Komi Republic is open and requires special research). See range map.

Conservation status in Finland: Near Threatened (NT)