Reindeer get GPS sensors for their safety

December 25, 2017, 12:05 p.m.
Reindeer walk along a highway in Finland
Photo: Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP/Getty Images

Reindeer husbandry is big business in Finland's Arctic Lapland region, so it's understandable that herders want to do everything they can to keep reindeer safe from predators, including wolves, lynx and wolverines.

Enter a new GPS sensor app that tells herders exactly where the herds are — and if they're in danger.

Since reindeer spend most of their time in the wild, the herders attach these sensors to the alpha females (as opposed to the whole herd) during the bi-annual reindeer roundup in September, according to the BBC.

Once attached, the sensors send signals to herders over a specially designed network called LoRaWAN. The network covers this remote area and affords the herders a low-power way to track the reindeer. It also eliminates the need for the tracking device to have some sort of mobile carrier subscription.

Now herders can easily locate the reindeer and hopefully reduce the number of reindeer lost to traffic accidents and predators.

"This tracking solution brings real benefits for the reindeer and for our herders," said Matti Sarkela, head of the Finnish Reindeer Herders' Association. "There are the obvious ones, like rescuing animals that are hurt or confirming the death of an animal to claim compensation, but by tracking all the time, we can gain insight into their behaviors and better care for them."

Plans are underway to attach sensors to the lynx population sometime next year so herders can receive an alert when a lynx is getting too close to the herd.

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