reindeer (Rangifer Tarandus) is a relatively new addition to the wild
mammal fauna of Iceland. It
was introduced between 1771 and 1787 in three regions, the Southwest,
North, and East. The
animals came from Norway and were supposed to be domesticated here, but
they have been feral from the beginning.
During the first years, the population increased rapidly in
number, reached a peak in the middle of the 19th century, and then
declined until 1940, when less than 200 animals remained in the eastern
central highlands, north of the Vatnajokull glacier.
In the North and Southwest they became extinct in the beginning
of the 20th century and after 1940 the stock increased in
number and in 1978 the count results were over 3000 animals.
The most probable reasons for the fluctuations of the population
are natural circumstances, such as insufficient grazings, range
deterioration because of the animals themselves and volcanic eruptions and difficult snow conditions
Hunting was limited through the whole period, and is not
considered a determining factor in this respect.
The reindeer is protected, except during the short hunting season
between July 15th and September 15th
During summer, the mainstay of the stock roams around the
interior ranges north of the Vatnajokull glacier, and in the autumn the
animals they migrate to the lowlands and coastal areas for the winter.
Here in Iceland the reindeer is not plagued and pestered with
parasitic and biting insects. The only other such reindeer habitat in
the northern hemisphere is Svalbard.
Hydroelectric planning in the regions north of the Vatnajokull
glacier may affect the reindeer population and its ranges.
Research and investigation should assist in the decision-making.