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Wild reindeer

Wild reindeer played a central role for the first settlers who arrived in Norway. But how are the wild reindeer coping now? And what can we do to improve living conditions for the nomad of the mountains?




Dovrefjell National Park Board
Hjerkinnhusvegen 33
2661 Hjerkinn



Wild reindeer

The fascinating primeval animal

Did you know that reindeer are the only large mammals where both sexes have antlers? And that their antlers grow (up to 2 cm a day) and fall off every single year? Male reindeer use their antlers during the rutting season to fight with each other in order to win the females. However, they shed their antlers when winter approaches. Female reindeer, on the other hand, retain their antlers throughout the winter in order to fight for the best grazing grounds. Reindeer are extremely well adapted to a meager existence in the mountains, and they are not affected by the cold until the temperature reaches -40 oC. During the winter, 40 to 80% of their food consists of lichen that they find on the ground and on trees, the remainder consists of dry grass and small shrubs – a diet on which no other large mammal could survive.
Wild reindeer
Wild reindeer

Main purpose of protection

The main purpose of protecting Dovrefjell-Sunndalsfjella National Park, most of the protected areas and habitat and species management areas is to safeguard the wild reindeer habitats in Snøhetta and Knutshø. The wild reindeer populations in these areas, together with Rondane and Sølnkletten wild reindeer areas, are the last remnants of the original wild mountain reindeer in Scandinavia. The Norwegian wild reindeer is a so-called National Responsibility Species and we have a special responsibility to take care of it.


In addition to protecting wild reindeer habitats, several specific measures have been taken to improve the situation. The regulation of traffic on important roads and the closure/relocation of trails are just some of the measures that have been implemented.

Wild reindeer

Show consideration towards wild reindeer

The wild reindeer population in Dovrefjell-Sunndalsfjella is one of the few original herds left in Europe. The population has little or no intermingling with domesticated reindeer, and the animals are very shy. It does not take much to disturb the reindeer, and they will often catch wind of us long before we see them. Therefore, you should always move slowly away from the area if you meet wild reindeer in the mountains. This is important all year round, but especially in spring during the calving/nursery season and in winter when access to food is limited. By scaring the wild reindeer, we deprive them of time that should have been spent on vital grazing and rest. Read more about the wild reindeer at villrein.no

Status of Snøhetta and Knutshø wild reindeer areas

Before technical development took place, Rondane and Dovrefjell-Sunndalsfjella were a major habitat for wild reindeer. The area stretched from Sunndalsfjella in the west to Trollheimen in the north, Rørosvidda and Forollhogna in the east and southwards to the forested areas towards Lillehammer and Hamar. Throughout the year, the wild reindeer set off on their annual migration between different grazing grounds and areas of habitat. Many large trapping sites are evidence that the animals migrated through certain areas, where current developments and use hinder their migration today. These habitats have now been divided into many small areas, and the wild reindeer have less and less space.

Wild reindeer


The oldest traces of reindeer hunting go all the way back to the last Ice Age, 10,000 years ago. Hunting and trapping have taken place in Dovrefjell and Sunndalsfjella for hundreds of generations, and the oldest traces we can see today are over 1500 years old. If you keep your eyes peeled, you can see remnants of hunting hides, pitfall traps and large trapping sites in several places in the protected areas. The old trapping sites are located where the reindeer continue to migrate between current grazing areas. Between Dombås and Oppdal, there are over 1200 reindeer pitfall traps. Apart from some breaks which are mostly due to natural obstacles, this is a continuous series of pitfall traps and guiding fences. The vast majority of the pitfall traps in this trapping system have been dug out of the earth due to ground conditions and access to wood. The trapping in this area mainly took place during the autumn and involved reindeer that migrated from summer grazing grounds in the west to winter grazing grounds in the east. In many places, the pitfall traps are located close to the E6 highway.

Wild reindeer hunting

Wild reindeer are a red-listed species, and it may sound strange to many people that we hunt reindeer. The reason why you are likely to meet reindeer hunters in Rondane from 20 August to mid-September is due to population control. Due to constant reductions in wild reindeer habitats, we must regulate the number of animals. This is done so the reindeer have enough food throughout the year, and to avoid disease.
Wild reindeer