More than 200 reindeer were found dead in the Arctic island of Svalbard, in Norway, the result of starvation induced by climate change.
The Norwegian Polar Institute said the reindeer died after climate change altered conditions in the Arctic, according to Norwegian news outlet NRK on Saturday.
Scientists from the institute found the bodies of 200 deer who died last winter, all thinner than the average weight for the animal. Female deer can weigh over 150 pounds, while male deer can weigh nearly 200 pounds..
The main food source for the reindeer is typically vegetation lying underneath the snow, but a changing climate has made accessing that food much more difficult.
“Climate change is making it rain much more. The rain falls on the snow and forms a layer of ice on the tundra, making grazing conditions very poor for animals,” Åshild Ønvik Pedersen, an ecologist with the institute, told the Guardian.
As a result, reindeer have to travel farther to graze. The youngest and the eldest die first in these expeditions for food, the newspaper reported.
This is an unprecedented rate of death for the animal, Pedersen told the Guardian, and the only time the death toll has risen to this level was following the winter of 2007.
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The deer are not an endangered species, according to the institute. But as a result of climate change, more reindeer are flocking to Svalbard — and more have to compete for the same food, they said.
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