Nature of the north Reindeer

In Sodankylä there are over 20,000 reindeer, or twice the number of human residents!

Reindeer are a part of the nature of Lapland

The reindeer is a native animal of northern areas, a tamed version of the ancient fell deer. Reindeer need broad pasture areas with various edible plants at different times of year. Reindeer are not suited for being fenced in year-round; most of the year the reindeer roam the entire reindeer herding area freely, searching for food.

Did you know? When you follow reindeer up-close, notice how their hooves make a soft clip-clop sound with each step. By listening to these sounds it is easy for the reindeer to stay together as a group when grazing with their heads down in the brush.

During the rutting period the stags can be unpredictable and it is best to be wary of them. Even though that is when the stags are at their handsomest, do not approach them, not even to photograph them. A proverb says that when the lingonberries are ripe, you should beware the reindeer.

Rounding up of reindeer

Rounding up of reindeer mostly happens in Sodankylä in the autumn, but also in the winter. The rounding up occurs over several weeks inside roundup fences all over Sodankylä, and it is followed by slaughter. During the rounding up, most reindeer are gathered from nature first into a large fenced-off area, where they are taken inside the “churn”, or round fence, in small groups. The church has a lot of doors through which the deer are directed one at time into the smaller fenced-off areas or “offices” desired. At the same time, new calves are assigned to their rightful owners. At the end of the roundup, the reindeer of each reindeer owner are driven to the desired pasture. The reindeer that have been rounded up are marked so that the same reindeer is not rounded up a second time in error.

Tip! At the end of the year you can buy various reindeer meat products in the grocery shops in Sodankylä. For example, calf liver and reindeer tongue are delicious local tastes, and quite inexpensive treats, too. Don’t hesitate to try them – there are recipes available online!

Reindeers down the road

You can come across reindeer while driving down the road. In the spring, as the snow melts, animals come to eat the vegetation sprouting on the verges. The reindeer move onto the roads as the period of blood-sucking insects intensifies in June and July. The wind on the open road reduces the number of horseflies, mosquitoes and blackflies tormenting the reindeer.

Like many other animals, the reindeer does not have a natural fear of motor vehicles. When driving on the roads of northern Finland, the driver should consider the danger posed by reindeer.

In the case of a reindeer crash

  • Prevent further damage. Place a warning triangle on the road to warn others.
  • Take care of first aid for injured persons and call the emergency services immediately (112).
  • Stop the injured reindeer or get someone to do it.
  • Always notify the emergency response centre (112) if you bump a reindeer. Even if the reindeer continues its journey, it is likely to be injured. DO NOT LEAVE THE ANIMAL TO SUFFER!
  • Transfer the carcass to the edge and mark the place as visibly as possible. The carcase must not be taken with you.
  • Notify your insurance company if the collision has resulted in personal injury or property damage.

Video of Reindeer round-up in Routusvaara, Orajärvi. Video is made by Seitasäätiö.

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