The population of wild forest reindeer in Kainuu has grown steadily but quite slowly since the 1950s. By the mid-1990s, it numbered more than one thousand individuals. Between 1993 and 1996, a wild forest reindeer fence built on the southern boundary of the reindeer herding area contributed to population growth: in 2001, the number of wild forest reindeer was already almost 1,700.
However, the wild forest reindeer population began to decline rapidly. Since 2010, the population has stabilized at about 800 individuals. In 2015 the populatio was estimated to be 700 individuals. The reasons for the sudden drop in population are not known exactly, but in the early 2000s wild forest reindeer mortality was increased by populations of predators, removal of wild forest reindeer from the reindeer herding area, and culling of cross-breeds, together with hunting and traffic. Population decline may also have been affected by parasites and by animals remaining in Russia after the spring migration.
The territory of the wild forest reindeer in Kainuu extends across the Finnish-Russian border. Today, about one-third of animals in Kainuu migrate in the spring to calf in Russian Karelia, and return to their Kainuu overwintering areas in the autumn. In the 2000s, some individuals were found as far off as Vaala.
In northern Kainuu, the spread of the population was limited by the wild forest reindeer fence on the border of the reindeer herding area. In the south, individuals may be found as far as Lieksa, while some animals migrate south in spring for calving. As a rule, they return to their winter pastures in Kainuu in the autumn, but they may sometimes remain to winter in North Karelia.
In the 1970s, 170 individuals from the Ruunaa subpopulation, probably linked to the Lake Leksozero population on the Russian side, lived near the border of North Karelia. The permanent population of Ruunaa has also disappeared with the depletion of the Lake Leksozero population.
Wild forest reindeer
Latin name: Rangifer tarandus fennicus, a wild "cousin" of the reindeer
Range and numbers:
In Finland, 700 individuals in Kainuu and 1,250 in Suomenselkä
In Russian Karelia up to 2,400, with an estimated 1,500 in Arkhangelsk and 2,500 in Kom (the question of the taxonomic status of wild reindeer of Arkhangelsk province and Komi Republic is open and requires special research). See range map.
Conservation status in Finland: Near Threatened (NT)