Travelling with 3000 reindeers

While people in the lowlands and in the cities now are enjoying the first signs of Norwegian spring, I did the opposite. I went to mountains still completely covered in snow. There, I experienced something very spectacular – 3000 reindeer on their way to the summer pastures. It is a long journey, it take days or weeks, and very few people see this spring migration.

These reindeers are owned by 10 families of the sami people, the indigenous people in Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia. They use the same pastures as their ancestors. They used to be nomads, but don’t live in the mountains full time any more. And since the end of the 1960ties, beginning of -70ties, the snowmobile have been important for doing their work during winter.

When the reindeers reach the summer pastures some time this weekend, it will only be days before the calving begins. That is a period these animals should not be disturbed. There are more photos here.

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157 thoughts on “Travelling with 3000 reindeers

  1. Hmmm… Me like. Where is the nearest hotel??? Having a trip to Norway next month. Not that far up, but soth of Bergen. Rosendal.
    I once served my duty on Porsangermoen, and was thrilled of it’s nature.

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    1. If you served on Porsangermoen I guess you saw a whole bunch of reindeers all the time, since there are so many up north. Thare are no reindeers in Bergen, for sure, and no reindeer herding in south and western Norway, but you have the wild ones, the last population of the European reindeer. There are many at Hardangervidda National Park and that is not so far from Bergen… Have a nice trip anyway!

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  2. Hi,
    Oh my how great is that, it all looks so magnificent especially with the snow as well, this is the first time I have ever seen such a herd of deer, it’s very surreal. 🙂

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    1. The own reindeers and live (partly) in the mountains as their ancestors did. I am not sure what you mean; you think 3000 is too much, or too few? Anyway, these days the meat is the commercial product. Before the families used everything, and I really mean everything, nothing was wasted, mainly for their own use but they traded meat and fur for salt, flour and other goods. Today it is normal that one of a couple work outside the herding for the family to make a living, and that is usually the woman.
      And, from a herd of about 3000 there are a few bulls, there are young ones, there are probably not many old ones, and it is only the female reindeer that produce calves, that is future meat.

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      1. Thanks for your response! The size of the herd isn’t important to me, I just wanted to know if the reindeer are raised for meat alone, or other products such as hides. I’m guessing they are used primarily for table meat.

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      2. It is the meat that brings cash, Jerry. The hides are also sold, but the price is low as I know it. Before they were used for clothes and all kind of goods, they are also used now.

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  3. Amazing photos, Bente.
    I was surprised to see the line formations they move in. I would have thought they would have been scattered at random over the snow. (you learn something new every day on other people’s blogs – one of the best things about the internet).

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    1. There might be many reasons why they often walk in line when going between pastures. I know they save energy that way, by walking in a trail. But the snow was not so bad that day. The sun and temperatures was not enough to make the snow soft and difficult.

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  4. I haven’t seen them like that before… This is amazing and so beautiful dear Bente, but O wonder where is/are Santa Clauses too? Thank you, with my love, nia

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  5. Helt, helt underbara bilder! Tycker om både fjäll, snö och renar! Och vilket härligt väder! Vilken upplevelse det måste varit! Ojoj.
    Allt gott till dej!

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      1. Det känns enastående bara att se bilderna! Vilket privilegium! Tur att du var där så jag fick se bilderna!
        Allt gott till dej!

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  6. Fantastiske bilder! I think that reindeer will be arriving on our island in the next week or so. Can’t wait! They are marvelous creatures. And I’m looking forward to taking photos of them when they swim back to the mainland in the Fall! I’m sure it will be an experience of a lifetime.

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    1. Yes, you are in Finmark? Northern Norway is really the place to experience reindeers, since they are “everywere”, contrary to this place. I have seen swimming reindeer herds crossing the sea, it looks a bit frightening in that bad weather and rough sea… but I am sure it is a great experience to see.

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    1. I do not know the numer Barbare, especially since there are some bulls and many young ones in the herd. But every grown up female reindeer usually get one calf each, every year. It is still quite a lot of snow and often bad, cold weather when they are born…

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  7. Thank you so much for coming by and writing a note–that duck was irresistible, wasn’t he? Most of all, I’m pleased you came by because it enabled me to find you. I’ve added you to my good reads list, so I can come visit you in Norway, at least in a cyber-way, from time to time! Thank you again!

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  8. A wonderful series of photos. They have an unusual look against the snow and blue sky. I don’t know if its their color or their thick fur, but the stand out nicely. The patterns they make while walking – grouping in lines – is so interesting to see. Thank you for this lovely and interesting post and narrative.
    ~Anne

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  9. YET AGAIN… a simple WOW….. super pictures, I am sure u would have loved ur decision to move up the mountains, to witness this rare sight. and thank you for caring to put it for all of us !

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  10. Remarkable! Just….fantastic! I am in love w/that first shot.
    Thank you, thank you for posting these up!!
    If it were not for you I would never have seen such an incredible sight, nor even knew one could exist.
    ~d.

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  11. Wow! these are some phenomenally wonderful shots…really enojoyed looking at them today morning 🙂

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    1. Yes, you are right. The reindeers have to burrow through the snow to find food, they use the forefeet for this. That is why the female reindeer is the only deer animal with antlers, and she have them now, the last part on winter, while the bulls have lost theirs theirs. With the atnlers she can keep the bulls away (but she can let him dig), on the time of year when food is very scarse, and very important for her. It should have been more barren spots now, it is not easy to find food…

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  12. Is reindeer meet OK to eat again since Chernobyl? I remember it was off the menu in Finland for a while because the moss and lichen had absorbed radiation across the Sami region.

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    1. The reindeer meat is ok to eat, at least for you and me. The sami herders eat so lot of this, it is what they eat, so some had to buy from other regions not to get too high becquerel-levels. There is still radioactivity in the nature and therefore also in the meat, but this has been regulated very much and still is, so the meat is safe. The first year after 1986 the sami herders had to waste every slaghtered animals in the most polluted regions, that is thousands and thousands of animals.

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      1. Thanks for the update. I love the idea of travelling with a reindeer herd – just not in the cold and snow 😉

        I heard someone talking on the radio a couple of years ago about travelling with reindeer – and one of the phrases I remember him saying was that the herd travelled fast over miles of golden moss. That sounds good to me!

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  13. Well, I made it to Helsinki and Turku, but no farther north. Wish I could have seen Lapland. Maybe someday.

    I would love to see more photos of the reindeer. I am so glad there are wild lands left in the world. I read “Caribou” and loved it.

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