Every autumn, reindeer herders walk for hours trying to gather their herds dispersed in the old forests of Lapland. This year, some of Wild About Lapland teammates joined their ranks and experienced one day of their traditional lifestyle.
Passion and solidarity
In Lapland, reindeer is a semi-domestic animal. They spend most of their time gamboling freely in the forests. This is where, in spring, they mate. This is where, later, they give birth to their calves. But as soon as October comes, and before the tough winter really arrives, herders start gathering their herds dispersed throughout Lapland wilderness and bring them back to their farms. Today is the day.
Meeting is planned at 8:00, with the first rays of the sun and a hot coffee to warm up. There are about twenty men in the wooden cottage, they are all members of the herder’s association. Like us, they came to give a hand to their friends. Next time, they might need some help too, and twenty men will naturally come. Solidarity and passion are two fundamental pillars of the profession.
Reindeer, where are you?
Most of the reindeer were spotted, by the GPS tracking devices, in the surroundings – about thirty kilometers south of Rovaniemi. Every year, reindeer come here because of the abundancy of food in the old forests. The farmers have then stretched fences over a kilometer to create a gigantic bottleneck leading to a smaller enclosure, located next to the cottage.
Everyone here knows what they have to do. We split into small groups over several hundred meters to form a long human line. From where we are, we cannot see the other groups, they are standing too far from us. But the reindeer can probably smell them. The idea is now very simple: we will push the reindeer first between the fences, and then into the enclosure located 8 kilometers north. Easy, isn’t it?
The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind
We are zigzagging through the forests so as to cover as much space as possible and make up for the lake of staff. Every fifty meters, we stop and keep completely silent. “Listen carefully!”, Ari says turning his ears in all directions like two radars. As we remain still, every little noise in the forest suddenly becomes completely clear. We can hear everything. We can hear the smallest breeze in the pines, the shaking leaves of the blueberries and the big flakes of snow falling on the stones. But no bell.
We have been walking for almost an hour and heard nothing else but the beautiful constant breathing of those living forests. No unusual noise. No bell. No reindeer. In the sizzling walkie-talkie, the breeders are getting worried.
Finally, on the opposite side of the dry swamps, between the rocks and the young trees, the brown and white furs of a first group are moving! Few minutes later, a second group appears a little further. In total, there are maybe 30 or 50 reindeer. Now the hard part is to come: we need to gather all those reindeer in the right direction, and -obviously- not lose them.
Succeed or try again
We had to try several times before finally reaching the first fences. Every small mistake can have big consequences and make the work of two hours run out : a stubborn female who leads all her group in the wrong direction, a beater standing in the wrong place, and did not manage to block the escaping flows of reindeer… Then we all had to walk back and start again…
At the end of the day, we caught 62 reindeer. Not enough, but better than none. After 21 kilometers walking, and even running, on difficult terrain, we are exhausted. Tomorrow, however, the herders will start over again and again until they reach the number.
What a lifestyle.
Would you like to meet the reindeer herders too?
Book our Authentic Reindeer Farm Visit (with sleigh Safari) and enjoy an experience of a lifetime!