Scientists say reindeer may be shrinking due to warming

Reindeer living on the Arctic island of Svalbard are getting smaller — and scientists say climate change may be the cause.

Reindeer on Arctic island of Svalbard born in 2010 weigh an average 12% less than those born in 1994

Reindeer forage for food on the island of Spitsbergen, which is part of the Svalbard archipelago in Norway. Scientists say the reindeer are getting smaller, and global warming may be the cause. (Ben Birchall/PA/Associated Press)

Reindeer living on the Arctic island of Svalbard are getting smaller — and scientists say climate change may be the cause.  

Scientists from Britain and Norway have found that adult Svalbard reindeer born in 2010 weigh 12 per cent less on average than those born in 1994.

Ecologist Steve Albon, of Scotland's James Hutton Institute, said rising temperatures in the Arctic mean Svalbard is getting more rain, creating a hard ice sheet the island's reindeer can't easily break through to reach food.

Reindeer populations are also increasing due to warmer summers, stoking competition.

Albon said researchers think there is a correlation between rising temperatures and reindeer weight. He said more research is needed to confirm the link. 

Their findings were presented Monday at a meeting of the British Ecological Society.