Now is the time to go to the norwegian mountains, if you want close contact with reindeers. From about mid September till mid October there is mating season for reindeers. You never come as close to them as you might these days.
The males, the reindeer bulls, are busy chasing the females, or fighting other males, and do not react to disturbances as much as other times of the year.
Myself I went to Teveldalen, that is close to the crossing of the border to Sweden at Storlien in the beginning of this season. Some reindeer belonging to the sami group of Saanti Sijte (Essand Reinbeitedistrikt) had crossed over to another sami group, to Færen, were they did not belong. So the sami people were busy transporting reindeers to the other side of the valley. But they also slaghtered some animals. Since this is their only source of income and traditional source of food.
To be able to do this job, if it is slaughtering or transportation, they have to chase the animals into a small fence, where they can be sorted. This does not always succeed, like in the picture above when the animals turned and broke through. Then you try again.
The sami people prefer to slaughter the big bulls before the mating season because at this time they are at their best, big and muscular after feeding well all summer. After fighting and mating they will be skinny for months, if they survive. At the same time they can not slaughter a bull that has started mating, because the meat is inedible, and taste terrible.
The best way to determine whether a bull has started the mating season is to smell his breath, as done with this big, bull. And he was ready for mating, yes, and got to live!
This photo shows a reindeer “family”, a bull, a female and a calf. They do not actually live like a family like this. Most of the year they live in small or bigger herds, going around in the mountains as they wish, and as their instincts tell them. And in the springtime, when the calves are born, the mother and calf wander alone, without any male reindeers close to them.
And these reindeers have vast areas to roam. The nine families in the Saanti Sijte group have about 4.500 reindeers (winter) and do their herding in the mountains of seven communities in three different counties, from Hedmark in the south to Nord-Trøndelag in the north.
Anyone who wants to know more about reindeer herding can find information at reindriftsforvaltningen (norwegian). A link about sami reindeer herding in Norway, Sweden and Finland here. And there is also a portal about reindeer herding internationally, The International Centre of Reindeer Husbandry, and here is the link.
Want to see more pictures about reindeer herding and sami life? I have a gallery that shows more of my images.