Poaching is one of the most serious obstacles that restrict the recovery of the wild forest reindeer stock in the Republic of Karelia. In early spring, large herds of the wild forest reindeer stay in the vicinity of the great lakes, at which time they often become targets of illegal hunting. When the wild forest reindeer are as on a tray in a wide open space on the ice of a lake, it is very easy to catch them on a snowmobile. There are many big lakes in the Republic of Karelia and not many guards, so the supervising authorities find it difficult to organise adequate control. Illegal hunting of the wild forest reindeer takes place in the summer as well, when the animals swim between the mainland and the islands.
5-6 illegal killings are registered annually. On the other hand, according to a survey done in various parts of the Republic of Karelia, local residents claim that the actual number is much bigger. Observations show that wild forest reindeer are illegally hunted for sale, sometimes for household needs, and occasionally just "for fun". Poachers usually shoot one or two wild forest reindeer at one time, but an unprecedented murder scene took place in March 2010 in Lake Topozero, where a group of poachers shot 14 Finnish forest reindeer at the same time.
In Russian Karelia, poaching is primarily monitored by game wardens. Local hunters' associations and individual hunters assist in monitoring. There are also guardians in nature reserves.
The effects of poaching may extend into Finland. About one third of the wild forest reindeer who spend their winters in Kainuu, regularly roam across the border for summer. Although the return to Finland of wild forest reindeer with collars can be monitored, it is not known how many animals never return from their journey.
Individual cases of poaching of wild forest reindeer have sometimes also been revealed in Finland.
People in Russian Karelia are not necessarily aware of the poor condition of the wild forest reindeer population. Increased awareness among the local population and local authorities is one way to influence a region. Material produced by the Russian-Finnish wild forest reindeer project (Karealia ENPI CBC 2013-2014) is distributed to schoolchildren in Russian Karelia, so that young people can learn to take responsibility and to appreciate wild forest reindeer.
Wild forest reindeer
Scientific name: Rangifer tarandus fennicus
Range and numbers:
In Finland, 800 individuals in Kainuu, 2000 individuals in Suomenselkä and about 20 individuals in Seitseminen and Lauhanvuori National Parks (reintroduced populations).
In Russian Karelia up to 2,400. See range map.
Conservation status in Finland (2019): Near Threatened (NT)