National Geographic : 2009 Nov
0mi 500 0km500 0mi 50 0km50 DETAIL ABOVE NORWAY SWEDEN FINLAND RUSS IA 25°E 70°N NORWAY FINLAND RUSSIA Norwegian Sea BOAT ROUTE Migration route Foraging area Winter Summer Both PHOTO: BENJAMIN DRUMMOND. NGM MAPS. SOURCES: INTERNATIONAL CENTRE FOR REINDEER HUSBANDRY; NORWEGIAN REINDEER HUSBANDRY ADMINISTRATION CONSERVATION Ahoy, Reindeer The antlered animals weren't made for this---to stumble onto a boat in the middle of an autumn night (below) and bump and sway on the water for six hours until they attain solid ground again and resume their overland migration to a winter refuge. In Norway, both reindeer and their seminomadic herders, members of the indigenous Sami, are struggling to find their balance as development intrudes on traditional grazing lands, changing the way humans and animals move. For centuries the Sami have seasonally driven reindeer between grassy feeding grounds on the coast and lichen-rich tundra in the interior. Unlike the tiny wild population to the south, the 250,000 northern reindeer are semidomesticated, raised principally for the sale of their meat. The income helps support about 3,000 herders, nowadays a small fraction of Norway's Sami population of 50,000. But no longer can herds drift as easily as clouds. A glut of holiday cabins, oil and gas complexes, military ranges, windmill farms, and power lines has fragmented migration corridors. To adapt, the Sami are shifting grazing areas and using boats as well as trucks to maneuver herds. With the loss of pastureland, some worry that the culture's long dependence on reindeer will slowly vanish, destined for tales told by elders. ---Tom O'Neill To skirt development, some of Norway's reindeer now migrate partly by boat, in packs of 600 or so. Migration of Norwegian reindeer by land and sea may take more than a week and cover over 120 miles.