Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1946/30920
In 1787, 35 domestic reindeer (Rangifer tarandus) were introduced to northeast Iceland from Norway and have roamed wild since then. They increased and dispersed in the 19th century but in 1939 only few persisted in East Iceland. Thereafter the herd increased and dispersed all over East Iceland. The herd, Snæfellsherd, broke up into two herds in two separate areas corresponding to two hunting management areas 1 and 2, in the sixties, with limited immigration between the herds. Because of the hunting value of this species and their potential ecological role in Icelandic ecosystems, more knowledge is crucial. The main aim of this thesis is to assess the status of Icelandic reindeer, evaluate their probability of persistence in the future and compare the two herds with regards to population dynamics and demography. I compiled information from reindeer counts, data collected from hunters and data from GPS-collared reindeer. Positions from three females in area 1 and five in area 2 in 2009–2011 were used to define home ranges, analyse movements and utilization of different habitats. Monitoring of population dynamics with various annual counts and data on physical condition collected by hunters were used to compare the herds. Apart from hunting, car accidents were the most common cause of mortality in both herds. Reindeer were significantly heavier in area 1 than 2. Home and core range were different in size and shape and varied over time; home ranges were smallest during the calving season, and largest during the hunting season for both herds. Travelling speed was higher in area 1 than area 2, but in general the two herds travelled shorter distances in summer than reindeer herds in Norway, most likely related to the absence of warble flies and mosquitoes in Iceland. Dwarf shrub heath rich in willow and lichens constituted the main habitat of the reindeer in area 1 while dwarf shrub heath poor of lichens and willow but rich in sedges are dominant in area 2. Both herds showed changes in summer distribution that are thought to reflect grazing competition and anthropogenic disturbance. Now the status of reindeer in Iceland is good but the future is uncertain in a changing word both climatically and with increased human activity in East Iceland. Both herds are strong, but more studies of grazing are needed. The results of this study will hopefully help guide sustainable management of the populations in the future.
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