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Reindeer (Rangifer tarandus)

In wintertime the reindeers eat lichens, grasses and mosses. A reindeer smells through the dick snowcover where the lichens are situated...

Reindeer is very exotic to southern people but to northern people it’s everyday income. Reindeer husbandry is the main source of livelihood nowadays to almost thousand families even though other sources of livelihood are taking over more and more. In the northern parts of our country there are more reindeer than people, in the whole reindeer herding area the amount is 200 000.

Reindeer is tamed from European reindeer (Rangifer tarandus/R.t. tarandus) long time ago and is half-tame domestic animal now. Each reindeer belongs to somebody, because they are earmarked in the roundups. Owners have divided into herding cooperatives and the southernmost herding cooperatives are in the province of Oulu. The southern boundary of the reindeer herding area follows the Kiiminki River and, farther east, the Puolanka-Hyrynsalmi highway. The northern border follows the municipality of Kuhmo.

Reindeer differs from other members of the deer family in that also female (in Finnish: 'vaadin') has antlers. Reindeer is not dark active, so it can be met at any time of the day. It has its own rhythm where there are many short sleeping periods during the 24 hours.

The rutting season is in September - October. During that time males (in Finnish: 'hirvas') can be quite aggressive, they can for example attack upon man. Other times they avoid man. The calving time is in spring about after seven months, so the first calves are born near 1st of May and most of them after mid-May.

Reindeer wander after food. In the summer it feeds on herbaceous plants and leaves of trees, in the autumn mushrooms and lichens and in the winter lichens (see picture!), hays and twigs. In the forest zone the nutrition is a bit more diverse, for example in the summer they eat tasty bogbean from peatlands.

In the summer reindeer is the target of many nasty insect plague attacks. Some big predators like wolverine and wolf hunt reindeer, too.

Wild reindeer is the common name for those deer family animals that live in the northern taiga and/or tundra. The group of wild reindeer is still forming independent species so the classification is a bit difficult (see the map above!).

Reindeer belongs to those animals, too, but it’s half tame when wild reindeer is wild. Wild reindeer has divided into two groups: arctic tundra wild reindeer and taiga area wild reindeer. Our reindeer is probably tamed from the tundra wild reindeer. The karibu of North America is a wild reindeer, too as well as the Spitzbergen wild reindeer, which looks different than the other wild reindeer.

Finnish wild reindeer (Rangifer tarandus fennicus) lived in Finland wild until the early 1800’s but then the fierce hunting drove it away. The stock survived in the eastern Carelia and from there the reindeer came back to Finland in the 1960’s. Now the stock is bigger and they live in Kainuu and in northern Carelia. In the northern areas of Kainuu there is a danger that wild reindeer and reindeer cross with each others. The wild reindeer is bigger and it has longer feet than reindeer, there are some other smaller differences in the outer appearances, too.

The section "Reindeer" ends here!