Photo: Carl-Johan Utsi

Ubmeje is reindeer grazing land

Reindeer husbandry is a natural part of today's Ubmeje (Umeå). Every winter, thousands of reindeer gather in various parts of this area. Read more about Ubmeje as reindeer grazing land and how it affects you.

Five Sami villages in the area

Ubmeje is a part of Sápmi, the traditional Sami territory where Sami have lived, worked and practised their culture for centuries. Ubmeje has five active Sami villages; Ran, Gran, Ubmeje tjeälddie, Vapsten and Svaipa. Every year, reindeer husbandry is conducted here from 1 October to 30 April and it is a deeply rooted part of the region's culture. The reindeer, the seasons and the weather control the reindeer herding work, which means that each year of reindeer grazing has unique conditions.

Reindeer live in herds and the species found in northern Scandinavia is called tundra reindeer. There are 225,000–280,000 reindeer in Sweden. Both male and female have horns, and reindeer is the only deer species with this property. "Sarven" (the bull) and "vajan" (the cow) shed their horns every year. To move between different areas, the reindeer use special migration routes which are often very old.

Each reindeer has an owner and each owner marks the reindeer in a specific way. The mark consists of cuts into both ears of the reindeer in different combinations. The mark is personal for each owner and usually follows the owner's family.

How does this affect me?

If you encounter a reindeer, enjoy the nature experience and just take it easy. Sit down and watch the reindeer quietly until it has passed. The reindeer find their grazing land and there they need complete peace and quiet to search for food.

The pasture varies from season to season. In certain seasons, the reindeer look for mushrooms or for certain types of grass close to water, sometimes for lichen-rich mountains and pine heaths. The reindeers instinct control what type of food they search for. If a lot of people gather in these places, it can be difficult for the calves who may get away from their mothers. In some places in Umeå, temporary bans may apply to where you can stop and park. This gives migrating reindeer peace and quiet.

To gather the reindeer the herders use four-wheelers, motorcycles, dogs and sometimes even a helicopter. The owners mark their own calves with cuts into their ears to make them easily recognizable. Calf marking takes place in large paddocks. The reindeer is an arctic animal and does not thrive in heat, therefore gatherings and markings often take place in evenings and nights during summer.

It awesome to see many reindeer gather and run around in a big circle in the paddock. If you come close to a reindeer herd, remember that this is a place where people work. If you you are close to a group of reindeer, just take it easy, sit down and watch. If there is a fence, choose another route outside the fenced area to avoid disturbing the herd or opening the fence so that the reindeer can get out.

If you have a dog, always keep it on a leash regardless of the time of year, it is the law in reindeer grazing areas. Even if you trust your dog, never take for granted how your dog will react when it sees a reindeer or other wild animal. Many dogs have hunting instincts that can be triggered by seeing a prey on the run.

According to law

When reindeer are within a grazing area where reindeer herding is permitted, dogs in the area that are not used in reindeer herding must be kept on a leash or confined, unless the county administrative board allows otherwise.

Fines are imposed on anyone who intentionally or negligently "scares or otherwise disturbs reindeer staying in an area where reindeer herding is then permitted", without authorization drives reindeer away from an area where reindeer herding is then permitted or prevents reindeer from grazing in such an area.

Varningsskylt för ren

Why are there black garbage sacks by the road?

Roads cross the reindeer's traditional grazing land from the mountains to the coast and in many places roads are built across migration routes that the reindeer are used to.

Changing grazing conditions, weather changes and predators make reindeer appear closer to the roads, even where you usually do not see them. Road salt and sand attract reindeer to the roads where they lick up the salt. Because reindeer are not aware of traffic, deep snow can cause them to use roads and snowmobile tracks where they can move more easily.

Pay extra attention and lower your speed when you see reindeer warning signs, garbage sacks by the side of the road or reindeer tracks. There may also be reindeer herding work going on and both herders and herding dogs can be close.

Sometimes it is difficult to avoid reindeer coming onto busy roads. Therefore, adjust your speed, especially in the winter.

Watch out, reindeer on the road Länk till annan webbplats, öppnas i nytt fönster. (, Swedish)

Kvinna sätter ut varningstriangel på vinterväg

What if I run into a reindeer on the road?

In case of an accident with a reindeer, call 112 and make a police report. Place a warning triangle and mark the location of the accident. You must do this even if the animal is not visibly injured or lying dead at the spot. The marking should be on the side of the road where the animal disappeared.

When reporting to the police, you should provide

  • your personal and vehicle details
  • location of the accident; town, road number and landmarks, if possible GPS-position
  • if the the reindeer is still on the location or in which direction it disappeared.

Do not pursue or track an injured reindeer yourself.
The police will contact a hunter with special expertise to track the hit animal.

Read more about wildlife accidents Länk till annan webbplats, öppnas i nytt fönster. (, Swedish)

More information

A Sami village is not actually a village but a geographical area used for reindeer husbandry. The Sami village is organized as an economic and administrative association with its own board. In Sweden there are 51 Sami villages from Karesuando in the north to Idre in the south.

Read more about Sami culture and reindeer husbandry: Länk till annan webbplats, öppnas i nytt fönster. (Swedish) and Länk till annan webbplats, öppnas i nytt fönster.


Do you want to know how to avoid disturbing the reindeer husbandry? Contact the Sami village in the area you plan to visit. In the Ubmeje area there are five active Sami villages; Ran, Gran, Ubmeje tjeälddie, Vapsten and Svaipa. Current contact information is available at Länk till annan webbplats, öppnas i nytt fönster..

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