Reindeer landscape

We still follow the same trails

  • This area is still used for reindeer herding – the traditions live on. Photo: Carl-Johan Utsi
  • Laponia is the largest and best-preserved example of nomadism, where people have migrated with reindeer between different foraging areas Photo: Carl-Johan Utsi

Thanks to the availability of a varied diet, people have been able to live in Laponia since the end of the last ice age: plants, fish, moose and wild, later domesticated, reindeer.

The migrations of reindeer herds have contributed to forming Laponia’s unique nature into a landscape of considerable bio-diversity. Stone Age hunters followed the wild reindeer on their constant migrations and trapped the animals. Today’s mountain and forest reindeer herding originates from the migrations and yearly cycles of the wild reindeer.

The reindeer is a wanderer by nature. It finds its forage at different places depending on the season. The forest reindeer is only found in wetland and forest areas, and never moves up to the mountains. The mountain reindeer ranges over vast areas. In early summer it forages on low-lying land in birch forests and on wetlands where the vegetation is early and abundant. In summer it moves to surrounding mountain areas, as far away as the Norwegian coast. In spring and autumn, the mountain reindeer moves down to low fells and mountain birch forests. In winter it eats the lichen in snow-covered coniferous forest.

In today’s Sámi reindeer-herding communities the reindeer must be moved between different areas during the year in order to survive. The reindeer owners have permanent dwellings, but the reindeer still follow their ancient migratory routes.

The reindeer prepares the ground for many plants. When it tramples and displaces earth it contributes to raising the temperature in the ground. This benefits lichen, moss and other plants.