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The Svalbard reindeer – ecology, parasites and diseases

Pedersen ÅØ, Josefsen TD, Mørk T, Åsbakk K, das Neves CG, Hansen BB, Tryland M. Svalbardreinen – økologi, parasitter og sjukdommer. [The Svalbard reindeer – ecology, parasites and diseases]. Norsk veterinærtidsskrift 2014; 126(2): 260-268 (In Norwegian with English summary).

The Svalbard reindeer is adapted to the arctic climate and represents an endemic key species in the Svalbard ecosystem. The species lives in a predator free environment and is exposed to limited harvest. Mortality is highest the first year of life, and increases after 6-10 years of age, usually associated with winter starvation due to tooth wear, precipitation as rain and icecovered pastures. Two species of nematodes (roundworms) and two species of tapeworms are commonly found in Svalbard reindeer, but the tapeworm Echinococcus multilocularis, causing alveolar echinococcosis in man, is never found in reindeer. During the rabies outbreak among arctic foxes in 2011, 10 Svalbard reindeer were diagnosed with rabies. Other viruses, commonly found in reindeer in other regions, do not seem to exist in Svalbard reindeer. Climate warming impacts the Svalbard reindeer negatively by increased frequency of ‘rain-on-snow’ and icing events in winter, and possibly changes in conditions for parasites. On the other hand, the reindeer may be positively influenced by increased plant biomass and extended growth seasons.

NVI authors

Josefsen Terje Domaas

Veterinary pathologist (permisjon)

Mørk Torill


das Neves Carlos Gonçalo

Seksjonsleder / Seniorforsker