Appearance and reproduction

The male wild forest reindeer is visibly larger than the female. The male weighs 150-200 kg and the female 60-100 kg.

The wild forest reindeer and the semi-domesticated reindeer are very similar in appearance. They can be difficult to tell apart without any practice. Wild forest reindeer have longer legs, a longer muzzle and narrower antlers. Their long legs are adaptations to deep snow, and the long muzzle allows them to sniff out lichen under snow. The narrow antlers are suitable for movement in a forest landscape.

Unlike other animals of the deer family, both sexes have antlers, although the antlers of the male are considerably larger than those of the female. The antlers of the male begin to grow in early summer and they are at their most impressive during the autumn rutting season. The antlers are needed when males have to fight with rivals for females.

In the autumn rutting season, wild forest reindeer gather in herds containing a single leading male and several females. The male mates with the females, and watches the herd to prevent the approach of other males.

In the spring, usually in May, the females gives birth, usually to a single calf. This means that the wild forest reindeer recovers slowly from reduced population and other problems. For example, a moose will often have two calves, so the population can recover quickly.

The antlers of the male wild forest reindeer generally fall off after the rutting season, but females keep their antlers over the winter. Keeping their antlers allows the females to secure winter food for themselves and their calves.

Info Box

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)