Reindeer Sub-Species of Europe
Most of Europe's
reindeer populations are now semi-domesticated. While they are still
allowed to roam free in their traditional reindeer territories, herding
and husbandry in Lapland and other areas of Scandinavia continue among
the Sami and other indigenous people.
There are three
sub-species of reindeer in Europe, and each
has evolved over time to adapt to its particular environment. The forest
reindeer of Finland (R. tarandus fennicus) for example, has
adapted to northern forest life by growing narrower sets of antlers to
ensure it can move through the forest unhindered.
Norway's Svalbard Islands Reindeer
There are approximately 10,000 Svalbard
Islands reindeer (Rangifer tarandus platyrhynchus) in
existence and they all live on Norway's Svalbard Islands, an island
archipelago in the Arctic. Until 1925, hunting cut down the Svalbard
reindeer population which accounts for the small number left to roam and
repopulate. Reindeer have
lived in the Svalbard Islands long before the islands became
separated from the mainland during the last ice age.
The Svalbard reindeer are the smallest
reindeer due to insular dwarfism as the animal evolved and adapted to
its small roaming ground. Adult female
Svalbard reindeer weigh approximately 53 kg in
spring, but typically gain another 17 kg by
winter. Adult males weigh approximately 65 kg,
gaining another 25 kg by winter. They are shorter in height and length
than other reindeer – 150 cm to 160 cm in length and approximately 80 cm
Finland's Forest Reindeer
There are three traditional grazing
grounds for Finland's forest reindeer (Rangifer tarandus fennicus).
They can be found in Northern Europe's Fenoscandia Peninsula with a
smaller population in the forests of central Finland as well as a
population in the region of Karelia. In contrast to
Norway's Svalbard reindeer, Finland's forest reindeer is the largest of
the sub-species. Males can weigh as much as
250 kg while females weigh up to 100 kg. These
reindeer are built for the forest as well as the cold and the
The forest reindeer of Finland are
becoming a threatened sub-species with small populations. They were
hunted to near extinction until the close of the 19th century. Hunting
and diminishing forests over centuries have
led Finland's government to introduce them into Salamajärvi National
Park, but their numbers are slow to increase due to an abundance wolves
moving into the region.
The Mountain Reindeer of the Arctic
(Rangifer tarandus) graze from the Fennoscandia Peninsula into
northern Russia along the the Arctic tundra.
Norway has some of the largest wild
reindeer or mountain reindeer herds. They live in the barren plateaus
of the Hardangervidda grazing on lichen during the winter months and
migrating in spring to breed on more vegetative grounds in the region.
The population of the mountain
reindeer of the Hardangervidda has remained constant in recent years
with an average of 8000 wild reindeer on the plateau.
The reindeer of
northern Europe have always struggled for their survival. With the
depletion of forests, climate change, hunting and domestication, their
numbers have decreased, some species to near extinction. Awareness and
calls for action have resulted in maintaining the present populations of