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.

Info Box

Wild forest reindeer

Scientific name: Rangifer tarandus fennicus

Range and numbers:

In Finland, 800 individuals in Kainuu, 2000 individuals in Suomenselkä and about 20 individuals in Seitseminen and Lauhanvuori National Parks (reintroduced populations).

In Russian Karelia up to 2,400. See range map.

Conservation status in Finland (2019): Near Threatened (NT)