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BLOG: Wild reindeer hunting in Norway

Published 10.03.2009

Many thousand years have passed and the technology has changed, the bow and arrow has been replaced with a modern rifle, but the activity remains the same.

The rock engraving was slowly carved by an artist on a rock face in Alta in northern Norway in the late stone age, and the photograph was instantly captured on a Nikon by a fellow hunter on Hardangervidda in southern Norway in the early digital age. It’s impossible to see inside the minds of past hunters, but it is likely that both hunters have much in common. Wild reindeer would certainly represent food to both. They must also represent much more than just protein.
The stone age artist went to the trouble to carve the picture into the rock and the digital age hunter has also taken the trouble to take a week or two away from work and family in pursuit of a very elusive quarry. It shows that hunting has always been more than just simply the efficient acquisition of calories. In the modern context, wild mountain reindeer are only found in southern Norway, still roaming the mountains that they have occupied since the end of the ice age. Reindeer are subject to intense conservation management activities, especially focused on protecting their habitat from being ever more fragmented by roads, powerlines, tourism disturbance and tourism infrastructure.
Hunting is a major part of this management strategy. It is mainly used to limit the herds to a level that the habitat can support. This is important because the critical lichen pastures are easily overgrazed and have long recovery times. Hunting also gives landowners an incentive (both economic and cultural) to not just convert the reindeer’s habitat into a lucrative recreational playground that would not have room for reindeer or any of the other species that occupy the mountain tundra.
John D.C. Linnell, March 10, 2009