GPS Tracking Being Used to Keep Reindeer Safe

2 Jan 2017

Reindeer are almost synonymous with Christmas in some circles. Children around the world look on these beautiful creatures with wonder – knowing that one night a year, these animals deliver joy and magic to children everywhere. What you may not know, though, is that reindeer populations are in decline leading the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) to list reindeer as a vulnerable species.

Part of the reindeer population decline is the result of nature. In fact, nearly 10 percent of the declining population of reindeer each year can be blamed on becoming victims of accident or prey to a variety of creatures, including bears, wolves, lynxes, and wolverines. Herders in Finland’s Arctic Lapland region are turning to technology to present practical solutions to help protect their reindeer herds.

The New York Times reported on one incident where 110 reindeer were killed by trains in Norway. The article goes on to report that nearly 600 reindeer are killed by trains each year. GPS tracking can help prevent incidents like these by notifying train operators when reindeer herds are too close to tracks or allowing herders to steer them away from danger in these circumstances by notifying them of their proximity to danger.

Presently, they are equipping the herd’s alpha female reindeer with GPS tracking sensors and tracking their movements via app. While the app, in its current state doesn’t provide direct protection for the herds, it allows herders to locate them quickly, so they can provide treatment and care if something occurs and allows them to confirm the deaths of animals from the herds as well. More importantly, it allows herders to learn vital details about the behaviors of the herds when they are out of sight, so herders can provide better care for them.

Lynxes, are traditionally the worst offenders when it comes to predators. There are plans in place to track these creatures as well, so that herders can be made aware when these creatures approach the herd for more direct intervention and protection of the herd.

GPS tracking offers a cost-effective solution that can last up to one year before battery replacements are needed (according to the device). The benefits it provides now, and in the future, for the reindeer population have yet to be determined. The hope is that we will eventually see their numbers increasing rather than declining so these magical creatures can be removed from their current vulnerable population status.

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