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Reindeer population

A wide range of factors influence the population dynamics of reindeer. Studies have been or are currently being conducted on pastures, supplemental feeding, parasites, predation, and possible influences of weather and climate on the productivity of reindeer populations. Factors affecting the population structure are also being studied.

Fieldwork has been performed in many reindeer herding cooperatives that encompass most of the range of the herding area. A valuable source of reindeer research has been performed in joint collaboration with the Finnish Reindeer Herder’s Association at the experimental reindeer herd in Kaamanen, Finland. Since 1964, long-term studies have been performed on the general biology and ecology of reindeer, body condition, blood chemistry, rutting behavior, genetics, sexual selection, pasture quality, and parasitology. In addition to the research conducted by the Reindeer Research Station, the Finnish Reindeer Herder’s Association tabulates statistics from numerous reindeer herding co-operatives.

More than 80 % of living reindeer are females. Age, physiological
condition and proportion of male reindeer in the herd are important
factors in the productivity of a reindeer population.
Photo Mauri Nieminen

On poor quality natural pastures, vegetation is scarce. The physiological condition of reindeer usually responds with declining calf productivity and low slaughter weights, malnourished adult population, increase in parasite burden, and greater occurrences of sick animals. Snow and weather factors and effects of other forms of land use on reindeer population are considered. Effects of forestry and tourism on reindeer pasture selection are studied with the help of GPS tracking follow up of reindeer. Experimental studies in reindeer physiology have been performed on a treadmill in a climate-controlled room at the Reindeer Research Station. As a result of overgrazing of winter pastures, supplemental winter-feeding of lichen and commercially developed pelleted rations are common in most regions of the reindeer husbandry area. Losses caused by parasites, illnesses and predators and how to prevent them are studied. Seventy percent of the reindeer slaughtered each year are calves. Therefore, it is important to study factors related to calf productivity and calf deaths in many reindeer herding co-operatives. Calf mortality research has been done for several years with the deployment of thousands of radio transmitters.

Calf mortality is studied with the help of radio transmitters.
Photo Mauri Nieminen



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© Finnish Game and Fisheries Research Institute.Modified 2003-12-19