What happens in a reindeer round-up?

Reindeer wander freely in the nature of Northern Finland. However, they are semi-domesticated animals: every reindeer has an owner. But how do the owners know where their reindeer are, how many of them may have disappeared and how many new fawns have been born?

That’s why regular reindeer round-ups are needed.

There are special kinds of reindeer round-up fences all over Lapland. In Finnish they are called “erotusaita” meaning litterally separation fence.

Above: Large numbers of reindeer are gathered to these fences from the surrounding areas a few times a year. In the actual round-up they are being separated to different kinds of smaller groups, according to their destination or owner.

Before the round-up the reindeer are being watched to see which fawn follows which mother. This is how the owners find all their new fawns.

Above: The most hectic and crucial place is a round fence called kirnu. Kirnu is usually situated in the middle of several other fences and there are doors in every direction. Here the actual separation takes place.

This is how it goes:

  1. The reindeer waiting in the big fence are taken into the kirnu in small groups.
  2. In the kirnu the reindeer owners capture, recognize, document and sort every reindeer. New fawns get their earmarks.
  3. The vet monitors all this and vaccinates the animals.
  4. One by one, every reindeer is being sent out of the kirnu. The bookkeeper writes down all the information.

It’s interesting to see what’s going on in kirnu, that’s why there’s often a curious audience.

Above: How do the owners recognize their animals? Every owner has a registered earmark, so reindeer owners can recognize every reindeer only by taking a look at their ears. During the round-up every new fawn gets its ears marked.

Above: In the kirnu reindeer are also marked with spray tags and fur marks to easily keep count of all the animals also after they have been liberated back to the nature.

Above: One by one every reindeer gets sent out of the kirnu. There’s always a bookkeeper registering each reindeer according to what the reindeer owners in kirnu report to him or her. This person keeps count on how many reindeer each owner has, and whether these animals are male, female or fawn.

Above: Reindeer on the left side have already been counted, marked and documented in the kirnu. The ones on the right are still waiting for their turn.

The amount of reindeer in reindeer round-ups vary quite a lot. In the Northern parts of Lapland there can be as many as 3000-5000 reindeer in the big fence at once. However, in the South it’s common to have anything between 150-1000 reindeer in the fence. The pictures of this article were taken in a round-up that had about 300 reindeer.

When the round-up is done, all the animals get to return to the nature. The owners now have an up-to-date knowledge on how many reindeer they own and that all their animals are in good shape.

If you ever get to participate to a reindeer round-up, consider yourself lucky! Only reindeer-owners get to know when and where the next round-up is going to be, and they often get the information only a day before. So if you’re in Lapland already and it’s either September, October, November or December, you can contact the local tourist information to check if they knew any upcoming round-ups nearby.

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