Reindeer in the Mountains of Sweden & Norway

Reindeer followed in the footsteps of the retreating ice-cap and were among the first to graze the new land. The hollow, air-filled hairs of their coat insulate them against the cold and they have a unique ability to feed off lichen. Reindeer have come to symbolise a life in harmony with nature and as such, the mountain range bordering on Sweden and Norway.

Reindeer as a Symbol of a Life in Harmony with Nature

Wild reindeer disappeared from the Swedish mountains at the beginning of the 20th century, but in parts of Norway there are still populations of wild reindeer. For generations the Sami have lived close to the reindeer which has meant that these animals have become largely used to humans. But the reindeer still retain their ancient need to roam freely and graze undisturbed. This needs to be recognized and respected by those of us who are only visitors to the realm of the reindeer. You can make a difference while being rewarded with greater knowledge of life in the realm of the reindeer.

Reindeer feel secure in herds. You are welcome to observe these beautiful animals, but allow them to graze in peace. If the herd moves away from you, it means that you have come too close. The reindeer are particularly vulnerable during their calving season in April/May. Extra consideration is also needed when large herds have grouped together, as any disturbance can cause them to disperse. Reindeer see unleashed dogs as a threat and this can cause them to panic.

The reindeer is the most important symbol of cultural identity for the Sami and it is also their most important resource. Reindeer have been employed as both pack and draught animals. Their fur and hides have provided warmth and clothing. Their robust antlers are used for both utility goods and jewellry. Reindeer meat is an essential ingredient of the Sami culinary tradition, and is a delicacy not to be missed. There is an ancient saying that tells of a promise made between the Sami and the reindeer – that they would take care of each other for ever.

Odds and Ends About the Reindeer

  1. There are three types of reindeer in Scandinavia: Wild Reindeer, Mountain Reindeer and Woodland Reindeer.
  2. There are approximately 500,000 reindeer in Sweden and Norway.
  3. Reindeer are the only deer where both males and females grow antlers.
  4. he reindeer are good swimmers.
  5. The reindeer’s most vital sense is its sense of smell.
  6. Mosquitoes in the summer drive the reindeer higher up into the hills.
  7. In August the reindeer become widespread as they search for food.
  8. A white reindeer is a sign of luck.

5 Ways of Enhancing your Meeting with Reindeer

  1. You can use binoculars to observe the reindeer cautiously from a distance.
  2. Avoid walking directly towards them.
  3. The quieter you are the calmer the reindeer will be.
  4. Always keep dogs on a lead.
  5. When large herds of reindeer roam – sit, watch and enjoy the experience.

Protect the realm of the reindeer

For the reindeer the intrusion of others into their realm has created a problem. For thousands of years they have learnt to live with and deal with natural threats to their survival. But, as human activity has grown, the reindeer have been forced from their natural grazing lands.

A modern infrastructure, with roads and railways, has brought with it increased accessibility for visitors, but has also prevented the reindeer from roaming freely. The growth of tourism hasn’t been easy nor free from conflict. Growing numbers of people visit the mountains and an increase in the number of trails has limited the opportunities of the reindeer to graze in peace and quiet. The growth of tourist activities and other events can also disturb the reindeer. Holiday homes on grazing land push the reindeer elsewhere. The drive to exploit natural resources for energy and raw materials affects the environment in which the reindeer live and the conditions on which they survive.

We want our visitors to leave with wonderful memories of the mountains bordering Norway and Sweden with it´s fascinating terrain, flora and fauna. We also wish for the experince to include an understanding and awareness of the relationships among nature, culture and humans and the importance of protecting the realm of the reindeer.