GPS Tracking for Reindeer

31 Dec 2018

Reindeer populations are declining at an alarming rate, experiencing a decline of nearly 40 percent over the past 10 – 25 years, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN). So much so, that they are considered a vulnerable species, and are included on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

This decline has taken these magical creatures that capture the hearts, minds, and imaginations of children around the world from a population of nearly five million to a mere 2,890,410.

Reindeer herders in Lapland, though, are using technology to help them track local populations better in hopes of protecting their charges and slowing their rapidly declining populations.

What is this technology?

It’s GPS tracking that can be done by fitting their herds with GPS trackers and monitoring their locations via mobile phone apps. Now herders no longer need to track their charges in sub-zero temperatures by searching on foot. They can monitor the locations of their entire herds electronically, going directly to the location of a lost or, possibly, wounded reindeer.

Not only can the use of technology be used to help locate lost and missing reindeer that have been separated from their herds, it can also be used to notify herders responsible for the reindeer if they are moving in areas that would make them vulnerable to lynx or wolverine attacks, which account for nearly 5,000 reindeer deaths annually.

The GPS devices are not only good for active tracking of reindeer herds but also run effectively in the background notifying herders if a reindeer in their herd doesn’t move after so many hours, which is often indicative of an attack.

Not every reindeer in the herd needs to be fitted with GPS tracking to effectively track the herd. However, the more reindeer that are outfitted with GPS tracking technology, the closer eye herders can keep on their entire herd.

Current GPS transmitters are about the size of a deck of cards and are affixed to the reindeer via collars. The batteries remain charged for up to one year. Hopes today are that the transmitters can be made even smaller, small enough to tag in a reindeer’s ear.

Another use of technology in the works is to send electronic alerts to drivers warning them of GPS-based reindeer activity in or around icy roads encouraging them to drive with greater caution to avoid accidents or injuries to humans and reindeer alike. The technology being used to help animals so many young people view so fondly is inspiring new generations to carry on herding traditions throughout the area.

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