The Finnish forest reindeer population wintering in the Kainuu region was counted at the turn of February–March 2016. In the census, 721 individuals were detected. The forest reindeer population living in Suomenselkä was estimated during the winter of 2015, and comprised around 1,250–1,300 individuals.

The forest reindeer population in Kainuu has declined by half since the culmination point of the early 2000s; it is now of the same order as it was at the turn of the 1980s and 1990s. The Suomenselkä population, however, remained stable in the 2000s.

The Finnish forest reindeer (Rangifer tarandus fennicus) is a subspecies of reindeer (genus Rangifer) and is found in Russian Karelia and Finland. Its endangered status in Finland is Near Threatened, NT. The Finnish forest reindeer is a species listed in Annex II of the EU Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC), and the size and status of the population are reported to the European Union at regular intervals.

The development of the forest reindeer population from the first half of the 1990s to the present day, based on aerial censuses. In Suomenselkä, a census is usually carried out every two years.

The development of the forest reindeer population from the first half of the 1990s to the present day, based on aerial censuses. In Kainuu, a census is carried out every year.

Luke provides information for population management

The Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke) provides basic information on the size, structure and population dynamics of the Finnish forest reindeer population and about the factors affecting them.

Aerial censuses provide an accurate and representative estimate of the size and structure of the forest reindeer population. Annual censuses are carried out in winter, when the distribution area of the forest reindeer is smallest.

The annual calf production rate in Kainuu is examined in autumn censuses, which are based on the observation of migratory herds in the terrain. In the autumn censuses, the proportion of cows with calves in the total population of female forest reindeer is estimated.

Luke places radio collars on female forest reindeer. This provides information about their movements, demography (birth rate, mortality rate, movements) and causes of death. Such information is used to determine the size, structure and status of the population and the factors affecting these quantities. Information on the movements of collared animals is also used to manage the risk of genetic contamination attributable to domesticated reindeer.

Special questions examined by Luke include the effects of large carnivores, elk and habitat on the forest reindeer population, the distribution of forest reindeer and the factors affecting it, the demography of forest reindeer, the choice of habitat, and alternative long-term strategic solutions for managing the population. Luke is also participating in the Forest reindeer-Life project of 2016–2023.

Picture on the top of the page: Arvo Juntunen, Luke.