Hiking in the Reindeer Husbandry Area

: Three reindeer on a frosty mountain slope. Fells in the background.


When you hike in Lapland, Kuusamo, Kainuu or the northern parts of Northern Ostrobothnia, you are hiking in reindeer husbandry areas. These areas are the reindeer's home and the reindeer herders' workplace. The northern part of the reindeer husbandry area is a special reindeer husbandry area. Inari, Utsjoki and Enontekiö, as well as the northern part of Sodankylä, are in the Sámi homeland where reindeer husbandry is particularly important. From a cultural and traditional point of view, reindeer (Rangifer tarandus) are incredibly important. They provide numerous families with their livelihood and keep many of the northern villages alive. Reindeer are allowed to graze freely in the reindeer husbandry area and reindeer herders can use motor vehicles in reindeer herding work.

Hikers Give Way 

Remember not to disturb the reindeer. Reindeer are timid and usually avoid people. A person approaching reindeer can cause them extra stress, which can be fatal, especially in severe winter conditions. During the calving season in late spring, it is especially important to keep your distance. A reindeer cow can easily miscarry its calf, when stressed by having to escape. 

The autumn rutting or mating season gets the reindeer moving faster than usual. During that time, male reindeer may think of you as a competitior, so it is best to stay away from them.

Reindeer herders use ATVs and snowmobiles in their reindeer husbandry work, for example when rounding up the reindeer. A helicopter is often also used to help in round-ups. If you suddenly find yourself in the middle of a herd, stay still until the herd has passed. More information on reindeer herding work in progress in some of the reindeer herding cooperatives (porotyot.fi, in Finnish).

A hiker closing a reindeer gate at the open fell.

Please Close the Reindeer Gates

The reindeer husbandry area is divided into 54 reindeer herding cooperatives. Reindeer fences prevent reindeer from entering the territory of another reindeer herding cooperative. There may also be fences between pasture areas within a reindeer herding cooperative. It is important to remember to close the fence gates if they were closed when you found them. If reindeer get to an area of another cooperative, the reindeer herding cooperatives will incur costs and additional work. Sometimes the gates may have been left open intentionally, for example between pastures. In that case, they must be left open.

Dogs and Reindeer

The restraint of dogs is regulated by the Hunting Act and the Public Order Act (finlex.fi). In nature conservation areas, such as national parks and nature reserves, dogs must always be kept on a leash.  Dogs that participate in hunting and reindeer herding for local residents in northern national parks are exempt from these rules. 

A dog that chases reindeer can tire them out, or at worst, kill a small calf. A dog can interfere with reindeer husbandry work by breaking up the herd, thus wasting the work of the reindeer herders. Reindeer fear dogs and see them as predators. Do not approach reindeer with your dog, and make sure your dog cannot escape its leash.

A hiker standing above and watching the sceenery below.

Reindeer Huts

Reindeer herders perform various reindeer herding jobs throughout the year. Many areas have bases, such as reindeer huts for reindeer work, some of which are open and accessible to hikers. Some may also be locked. Reindeer huts are owned by reindeer herders, and hikers must respect the privacy of locked huts and their yards.

Report a Dead Reindeer to the Reindeer Herder

If you notice a dead or injured reindeer, report it to the reindeer herder. You can also call the emergency response centre if you do not have contact information for the reindeer herding cooperative. Make a note of the location as accurately as possible. You can also mark the location in some way. Do not remove anything such as earmarks or collars, from the reindeer, but if it has any signs or names that make it easier to identify, make a note of them. A picture of the carcass may help to determine the cause of death.

Many reindeer herding cooperatives pay a small compensation to the person who reports a dead or injured reindeer. The Reindeer Herders' Association website contains instructions on what to do if you find a dead reindeer (paliskunnat.fi, in Finnish).

Four reindeer in an open pine forest. It is autumn.