Finnish forest reindeer
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Artiodactyla
Family: Cervidae
Subfamily: Capreolinae
Genus: Rangifer
R. t. fennicus
Trinomial name
Rangifer tarandus fennicus
(Lönnberg, 1909)

The Finnish forest reindeer (Rangifer tarandus fennicus) (Finnish: metsäpeura, Russian: лесной северный олень), also known as European forest reindeer[1] is a rare subspecies of the reindeer native to Finland and northwestern Russia. They are found primarily in Russian Karelia and the provinces of North Karelia, Savonia and Kainuu in Finland, though some range into central south Finland. They are distinct from the semi-domesticated mountain reindeer (Rangifer tarandus tarandus) in their larger size and preference for dense boreal forest habitat, where they are rarely seen by humans, over the open tundra.[2] They migrate seasonally back and forth across the long Russo-Finnish border.[2]


The Finnish forest reindeer is one of the largest subspecies of reindeer. It is 180–220 cm long and the tail 10–15 cm. The adult male is larger, weighing 150–250 kg, while adult females weigh about 100 kg. Their longer legs, wide hooves and narrower V-shaped antlers facilitate movement through deep snow and wooded habitats.[3]

Range and status

In the 17th century, the Finnish forest reindeer ranged throughout Finland and western Russia. Hunting, reindeer husbandry and habitat degradation through forestry led to their near complete extinction in Finland by the end of the 19th century.[3] In 1700, in Russia the population was concentrated in Kandalaksha (Kantalahti) and Lake Onega (Äänisjärvi)) but hunting and reindeer farming wiped them out in that area as well. In 1979 to 1980 they were introduced from Kainuu, Finland to middle Finland to Salamajärvi National Park. A small population of some 1,000 also thrive in Southern Ostrobothnia.[4] While their populations have been recovering in Finland, it has been suggested that an increasing, returning wolf population may be partially responsible for slowing the recovery.[5]

In 2013 Finnish and Russian researchers began a collaborative comprehensive population study using telemetry tags, collars linked to satellites to track the populations of the rare and threatened Rangifer tarandus fennicus, which is found in eastern Finland and northwest Russia. The estimates for the Finland population ranges from 850 reindeer to up to 2,000 or 3,000.[2][notes 1]

According to a census carried out by helicopter in Finland's Kainuu region this year, the population there totals 793 individuals. There are roughly 1,000 in the Suomenselkä area, with a few dozen around the towns of Ähtäri and Lieksa. Miettunen says that levels have remained quite steady in recent years.

— Alaska Dispatch, 2013

The Finnish Ministry of the Environment considers the subspecies to be Near Threatened.[6]


The WildForestReindeerLIFE project in Finland started in 2016, lasting seven years. The project is coordinated by Wildlife Service Finland and co-funded by the LIFE Programme. One of its main goals is to reintroduce forest reindeers to its original habitats in Suomenselkä: National Parks of Lauhanvuori and Seitseminen were chosen as the reintroduction sites. First animals were released in 2019.[7]

The animals moved to Suomenselkä originate from Kainuu and Finnish zoos: Korkeasaari Zoo, Ähtäri Zoo and Ranua Zoo. Zoo employees also participate in planning the daily care of the animals living in the on-site enclosures, and provide wildlife veterinarian assistance.[8]

Zoo population

There are about 150 Finnish forest reindeers in 25 European zoos. These animals have made the WildForestReindeerLIFE reintroduction project in Finland possible.[9]

The Finnish forest reindeer has been part of European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA)'s population management plan since a studbook of the species was founded in 1998. From 2020, the species was added to the EAZA Ex-situ Programme (EEP).[10] The programme coordinator works in Korkeasaari Zoo[9] in Helsinki.

Comparison with other populations of woodland reindeer globally

The boreal woodland caribou of the subspecies Rangifer tarandus caribou in Canada, which are also forest-dwelling and avoid humans, are also experiencing a decline in populations and were designated as threatened in 2002 by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC).

External images
image icon A deer grazing
image icon Deer on a swamp


  1. ^ According to an article published in Alaska Dispatch in October 2013, while the wild Finnish forest reindeer are in decline, the semi-domesticated mountain reindeer, which are kept separated from the wild reindeer, have a population of at least 200,000.


  1. ^ "European Forest Reindeer". Highland Wildlife Park. Retrieved 30 December 2020.
  2. ^ a b c "Counting elusive Finnish forest reindeer in Russian Karelia", Alaska Dispatch, Eye on the Arctic, 12 October 2013, archived from the original on 31 December 2013, retrieved 30 December 2013
  3. ^ a b "Wild Forest Reindeer (Rangifer tarandus fennicus)", (copyright Metsähallitus 2010) [1][permanent dead link]. Accessed 11 April 2010.
  4. ^ "Kaksi metsäpeuraa kuoli Etelä-Pohjanmaalla". Iltalehti (in Finnish). 6 June 2010. Retrieved 8 April 2012.
  5. ^ "Experts concerned about collapse of wild forest reindeer population", Helsingin Sanomat – International Edition, 11 April 2007, [2] accessed 11.04.10
  6. ^ "Metsäpeura – Rangifer tarandus fennicus". Ministry of the Environment. 2019. Retrieved 12 April 2021.
  7. ^ "WildForestReindeerLIFE". Retrieved 30 December 2020.
  8. ^ "Zoos help protect wild forest reindeer". Retrieved 30 December 2020.
  9. ^ a b "Metsäpeurojen suojelua maailman eläintarhoissa koordinoidaan nyt Korkeasaaresta käsin – YouTube". Retrieved 30 December 2020.
  10. ^ "PROGRAMMES » EAZA". Retrieved 30 December 2020.