Rising temperatures are heavily impacting many animals in colder climates, putting their habitat at risk and making it more difficult to find food. Reindeer in Sweden are no exception. However, the country is launching a new effort to give these majestic animals a hand… or hoof.
The transport authority plans to help reindeer more easily access food by installing a dozen bridges over busy roads and railway lines in the northern portion of the country. Called “renoducts” – a combination of the Swedish word for reindeer and viaducts – the bridges will begin to pop up later this year, with the first located in the eastern city of Umea. There are more planned in the northern counties of Norrbotten and Västerbotten.
Per Sandström, a landscape ecologist at the Swedish university of agricultural scientists, told broadcaster SVT, “In a changing climate with difficult snow conditions, it will be extra important to be able to find and access alternative pastures.”
The hope is that these bridges will help reindeer travel further to find food because climate change is making that increasingly difficult. The Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute says the country has warmed by nearly 3 degrees Fahrenheit since pre-industrial times. The alpine region has felt this even more, with average winter temperatures increasing by nearly 5.5 degrees since the 1961-1990 time frame.
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Increasing temperatures mean rain can mix in with winter snow, leaving a layer of ice instead of soft powder. That interferes with reindeer reaching their food, which includes lichen, mushrooms, grass, and herbs.
Sami, the people who herd and look after the country’s reindeer, say the changes caused by the weather mean they need access to more land.
Sanna Vannar, president of the Swedish Sami Youth organization, explains, “Everyone wants to take the reindeers’ area where they find food. But with climate change, we need more flexibility to move around.”
The quarter million Swedish reindeer are also having a hard time finding food due to drought and wildfires.
In their quest for food, they’ve often had to travel across busy roadways and railways, which are sometimes fenced off and put them at higher risk of being killed. The bridges will keep them safe from this and also stop road closures caused when herds swarm the road.
Reindeer herder Tobias Jonsson told SVT that he and other herders gave input on the location and design of the bridges.
He says, “We were able to make sure, for example, that the bridges were open on the top. There are two-meter-high fences on the sides, so the reindeer cannot jump off. But it was important for them that it did not look like they were going into a tunnel. They do not want to be trapped.”
He says he’s looking forward to crossing undisturbed.Whizzco