Reindeer Sometimes Eat Meat

Mark Mancini
Rebecca O'Connell (iStock)
Rebecca O'Connell (iStock) / Rebecca O'Connell (iStock)

Does your family leave carrots out for Rudolph and company on Christmas Eve? This year, try a live lemming instead. Despite being largely herbivorous, stunned observers have watched the hoofed mammals hunt down unwary lemmings for centuries. According to a 1905 article in the Spectator, the reindeer eat the rodents when they're migrating, "killing them by stamping on them with their feet":

The probability is that reindeer eat the lemmings for the same reason that many Northern herbivorous creatures will eat flesh, as a kind of change and stimulant in diet, and that they look on the grass-fed lemming much as we might look on stuffed olives.

Eggs, too, are liable to end up in a reindeer’s stomach: The animals have been spotted raiding the nests of Arctic waterfowl, accidentally trampling whatever contents they don’t eat. In this respect, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree—white-tailed deer will sometimes snarf down sparrow eggs (and even chicks) for a quick dose of calcium. Don’t believe us? Feast your eyes on this:

A few ornithologists once suspected that, for these reasons, the climbing reindeer population in Siberia’s Lena Delta region was actively depleting the local swan supply, though such fears now appear ill-founded. Still, Santa’s elves may need to watch their backs…