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The Wild Reindeer

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The Wild Reindeer

The wild reindeer is the most significant animal on Hardangervidda. How to see wild reindeer:

When the wild reindeer roamed free

The wild reindeer originally roamed free across all of Europe. Changes to the climate, hunting practices and the domestication of the animals have made the wild reindeer extinct in other parts of Europe. Today there are only 23 fragmented areas left in the south of Norway. Hardangervidda is the largest and only area in the country where the wild reindeer has enough space to roam annually.

The Wild reindeer is important to Hardangervidda

The wild reindeer is, without comparison, the most notable animal on the mountain plateau. Not long after the Ice Age resided, the great, hardy and incredibly adaptable wild reindeer established itself on the plateau. The wild reindeer makes its annual journey across grazing lands in the south and the west. Hardangervidda is a typical habitat for the wild reindeer. It is well-adapted to the long, harsh winters with few resources, and the short, intense summers when it is of vital importance to acquire enough food in time for the coming of winter. 

What are the chances of seeing the wild reindeer? 

Even though one quarter of the wild reindeer in Norway lives on Hardangervidda, the chances of spotting them   from the National Park Route are fairly slim. On holiday by car along the National Route Park you can stop at one of the viewpoints along the road, and with binoculars you may be lucky enough to spot a wild herd several kilometres away. 

Why is it so rare to spot the wild reindeer? 

The wild reindeer roams in large herds across the vast Hardangervidda. Hardangervidda is the largest high mountain plateau in Northern Europe. It is more than 8000 km2; that is larger than the combined area of Østfold, Vestfold and Oslo. This explains why it is unlikely that you and a wild herd of reindeer will appear at the same location at the same time. Also, the wild reindeer is shy, and keeps its distance from people and highly trafficated areas. 

What to do if you see wild reindeer? 

  • Use binoculars and admire the wild reindeer from a distance
  • Keep quiet if you see wild reindeer as not to disturbe them  
  • Buy a postcard of the wild reindeer rather than attempt to take your own photographs

The wild reindeer on the serving plate since the Stone Age

Humans have hunted wild reindeer since the Stone Age. In certain periods, the reindeer was the human's decidedly most important prey. There is much evidence of deer-hunting on the Hardangervidda going back all the way to the Stone Age 8000 years ago. These hunting sites tell stories about a hard life in a climate that was difficult for both for humans and reindeer, and where the forces of nature posed the greatest challenge.

The hunt of the wild reindeer

During recent years, the wild reindeer hunt on Hardangervidda has been mostly at the Vinje area of the plateau, but some hunts have also taken place in Tinn, to the great joy of local hunters. For many in these villages, the reindeer hunt remains the highlight of the year. The hunt takes place on both the inside and the outside of the National Park borders. The authorities have declared it to be the wild reindeer habitat. The size of the area is approximately twice as large as the National Park.

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