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Don't Jump! Don't Jump!

The stories about lemmings, committing mass suicide by jumping off cliffs are not factual, even though this myth has become a metaphor for the behaviour of crowds of people who foolishly follow one another.

The lemming population can decrease or increase dramatically, and when things get crowded, food becomes scarce, and the little critters migrate - looking for more space. Sometimes they have accidents.

Their path may be blocked by water, and if they can't find a way around it, they'll swim. They can swim about 200 meters / 650 feet in calm water, but in choppy water (and not being adapted like some other furry Arctic animals), many will drown.

The "suicide" myth was fuelled by a 1958 nature film which featured a fake sequence of lemmings leaping into the ocean.

The scenes weren't even filmed in the lemmings' natural surroundings. Filmmakers imported lemmings and filmed the "migration" by placing them on a turntable covered with snow, and then shooting it from many different angles. The "suicide" sequence was created by herding the poor little lemmings over a small cliff into a river!

Caribou also migrate and often have to swim across water. Sometimes many drown, but you don't hear people accusing THEM of being suicidal!

Poor ol' lemmings. It's enough to make ya wanna...

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Library: Arctic, Animals
Polar Bears, Snow
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Arctic Maps & Weather Reports
Lemming Suicide Myth


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