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Reindeer crossing the glacier

  Helsinki, the capital of Finland, is a beautiful white city. The tour guide said that if two people walk 500 meters on the sidewalk holding hands with their arms extended, they will not be interrupted by someone coming from the opposite side. This statement is a bit confusing at first, but it is only after thinking about it that I understand it. They stretched their arms side by side and joined hands. They walked for a long time without meeting anyone, which shows that the roads in Helsinki are wide and there are few pedestrians.
   The air in Helsinki is extremely clean, and it is said that the content of inhalable particulate matter is “0”. I asked the tour guide, what good things are there here? It was a little girl of Chinese nationality who said that there are many good things here, but the roads are wide and the air is fresh, so I can’t take them away. The best thing left is reindeer hide.
   The tour guide is a beautiful Chinese female student named Jiajia. Jiajia had seen my work when she was in China before, and recognized me when she picked me up at the airport, so we are very friendly. She told me that the word “reindeer” comes from an Indian word meaning an animal that burrows for food. Reindeer are extremely brave creatures that live near the Arctic Circle. The female deer can weigh more than 150 kilograms, and the male deer is smaller, about 90 kilograms. Both male and female deer have a pair of branch-like horns, which can reach 1.8 meters. They are replaced once a year. As soon as the old horns fall off, new ones begin to grow. Among the reindeer, not only male deer have antlers, but female deer also have antlers. Why is this so? This is determined by the objective living conditions. The arctic climate is very cold and the vegetation is sparse. In order to grab more food, the pregnant doe needs to compete with its stronger companions, so it can only grow horns without letting the men.
   The winter temperature in the Alaska Ice Field can drop to minus 60 degrees Celsius. In order to resist the cold, reindeer not only cover their whole body with fur, but also have thick beard and hair on their snouts and noses.
   Reindeer hair is very characteristic. The long hair is hollow and filled with air, which not only keeps you warm but also increases your buoyancy when swimming. The close-fitting fluff is thick and soft, like wearing a double-layer leather jacket.
   Every year, the reindeer herds make a great migration of hundreds of kilometers. As soon as spring arrives, they leave the subarctic forests and grasslands they rely on for winter, and head north along the established route that has not changed for hundreds of years.
   There are more than 500,000 reindeer living in the western part of the Arctic Circle, and tens of thousands of reindeer in the huge population are about to give birth every spring. Foods such as lichens and grass roots contain less nutrients and are limited in quantity, which cannot meet the nutrients needed by pregnant deer at all. In order to ensure that her child is born in a place with sufficient food, so that her dear child can survive on the way home, the brave pregnant deer did not dare to delay for a moment. Be the first to embark on the migration journey.
   Along the way, the reindeer shed their thick winter coats and grow new, thinner coats. The fluff fell to the ground and became a natural signpost. Year after year, I don’t know how many centuries have passed.
   They start from the Suva Peninsula in eastern Alaska. At the end of the plain, the wide Cooper River lies in front of the reindeer. This is the first natural barrier that the reindeer need to cross. Under normal circumstances, the reindeer can cross the river during the freezing period. If the spring comes early, the river will break ice on a large scale, and the melting ice will cause the river to surge. They can only take risks.
   Most doe have a knack for sensing the thickness of the ice and will carefully choose a safe route. Young doe are inexperienced in crossing rivers, and some will lose their way after falling into the glacier, and finally drown.
   The doe who escaped the glaciers thought they could take a short respite, but they didn’t notice that there was another walking danger around them—their natural enemy, the grizzly bear, had ended hibernation and just needed to fill his empty stomach for the winter. After sacrificing a few careless companions, the rest of the pregnant deer began to cross mountains and ridges, entering another stage of the journey. Wild wolves come and go in packs here, and danger is always there.
   As the weather warms up, it’s not just reindeer that are going into labor in the tundra. Coyotes are on the verge of becoming mothers, too. For reindeer, the increase in predation by wild wolves is certainly not good news. To reach the destination, they have to cross the Brooks Mountains, but the pregnant deer can’t take care of this, and they will give birth immediately.
   Young deer can walk a few hours after birth, run faster than a person in a day, and forage for food on their own in a very short time. Having such a rapid growth rate is a unique ability endowed by nature to the young deer. They must grow strong as soon as possible to cross the Utaka River with their mothers.
   In June, the tundra area enters a short summer, and there are green grasses and blooming wild flowers everywhere. With the nourishment of various vitamins, nitrogen, and phospholipids, the young deer will soon become strong.
   It takes a month for the last reindeer to enjoy these. Lags born to laggards are much weaker than those born first.
   There is a lot of rain in the tundra in July, and many puddles have accumulated on the ground, breeding a large number of mosquitoes and flies. At this time, the reindeer have grown new antlers. The surface of the newly born antler is very fragile, and it contains a lot of blood, which is the main target of the siege of mosquitoes and flies. Every day, each reindeer will lose a certain amount of blood for this. In order to drive away the mosquitoes and flies on their bodies, the reindeer had to climb the Brooks Mountains again, and let the mountain wind help.
   In late August, the first cold winds hit the Arctic Circle. The reindeer know the signal: snow is coming in a few weeks. Before the snow falls, they must leave, and the long migration journey begins again.

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