Restoration of summer habitats

Wild forest reindeer have seasonally changing habitat requirements. Does find a peaceful place to calve during spring, while during summer the animals spend their time in small groups, especially in peatland areas. Summer habitats provide wild forest reindeer with their preferred food, e.g. buckbean (Menyanthes trifoliata) and sheathed cottongrass (Eriophorum vaginatum), and the open spaces help the animals avoid both mammalian predators and bloodsucking insects.

Four hundred hectares of drained peatlands located on government-owned land will be restored during the WildForestReindeerLIFE project, to better suit the habitat requirements of the species. Restoration sites will be chosen with the help of a habitat analysis based on monitoring data of the collared wild forest reindeer and the expertise of planners at Metsähallitus. Restoration will be carried out at both current wild forest reindeer sites and in the vicinity of the future reintroduction sites Lauhanvuori and Seitseminen National Parks.

Restoration activities will begin by removing all the trees from the areas and by blocking the ditches. This will cause an increase in water level, and changes will occur in the nutrient cycles and vegetations of the peatland areas. Peatland species, such as sheathed cottongrass, will slowly claim space from forest species.

Other species in addition to wild forest reindeer will also benefit from the peatland restoration. For example, willow grouse also accept restored peatland habitats.

Picture: A peatland area restored in 2010 as part of the REAH project. Photograph taken seven years after restoration. Wild forest reindeer have also begun utilizing the peatland area. (Photography: Milla Niemi)

Forest management of winter habitats

Wild forest reindeer congregate near lichen woodland during wintertime. They eat Usnea lichens in addition to ground lichens. The wintering grounds of wild forest reindeer are often located in commercial forests, which is why silvicultural practices conducted in these areas greatly influence the amount and quality of food available for the wild forest reindeer. The quality of winter pastures is best upheld by favoring as light forest soil tillage as possible after tree felling.

The WildForestReindeerLIFE project will identify the locations of the most important winter foraging grounds of wild forest reindeer situated on government-owned land. Data gathered by the Natural Resources Institute Finland concerning the movements of GPS-collared individuals will be used for this assessment. Information on existing and potential winter pastures will be transferred to the Metsähallitus GIS system, where it can be accessed by workers planning silvicultural actions.

Picture: Most winter foraging areas important to wild forest reindeer are located in commercial forests. (Photography: Mikko Rautiainen)

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)