Hundreds of reindeer starved to death on Arctic island 'due to climate change'

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By Rachael Kennedy
Hundreds of reindeer starved to death on Arctic island 'due to climate change'

More than 200 reindeer have been found dead on a Norwegian island in the Arctic Circle, with researchers pointing to climate change as an underlying factor.

The reindeer, situated on Svalbard island, were discovered by scientists with the Norwegian Polar Institute during a 10-week monitoring project.

According to the institute, the animals were believed to have starved to death after finding it more difficult during the winter months to forage for food.

Reseacher Åshild Ønvik Pedersen told Norway's NRK outlet that it was "scary" to find such a large number of dead animals.

She added: "This is a terrifying example of how climate change affects nature. It's just sad."

Reindeer on Svalbard are often used to digging through snow in the winter in order to find food, but an increasingly milder climate has brought less snow and more rain.

When the water his the ground, it turns to ice, which is much harder to dig through than snow.

Pedersen added that while some of the deaths could be expected due to a large birth rate last year, she believed that many of the recent deaths could be attributed to these effects of climate change.

READ MORE: Reindeer now smaller and lighter due to climate change, study finds

An increasingly milder climate has already caused "severe" effects on Svalbard, which researchers say paint a "very pessimistic picture".

"Climate change has consequences for the risks for several types of landslides and avalanches, for flooding and for coastal erosion," Bjerknes Centre for climate has said.

Svalbard's capital, Longyearbye, is now believed to be the fastest warming place on the planet.