While most reindeer don’t don a bright red nose, these Finnish reindeer do have glowing antlers. However, instead of using them to guide a sleigh through a blizzard, they alert drivers when they’re crossing the road.
Finland is home to a massive population of over 200,000 reindeer. According to the Finnish Game and Fisheries Research Institute, at least 4,000 reindeer die in traffic accidents. Collisions between reindeer and motorists are far from uncommon in Finland. Especially during the cold, dark months of November and December when the roads become icy. Not only is there an increased risk of loss of life, accidents involving reindeer make up $18 million in damages.
To prevent avoidable collisions to protect the reindeer as well as motorists, the Reindeer Herder’s Association began brainstorming ideas to increase awareness. With a few options in mind, the Association chose to experiment with the simplest.
The Reindeer Herders Association began spraying the reindeer’s antlers with reflective spray paint. The idea was to make the reindeer more visible in the dark of night. When drivers’ headlights light up the road, the reindeer would also be lit up, giving drivers time to slow down and avoid a collision.
The Association is still in the testing phase of the reflective paint. So far it appears to be more effective when applied to the antlers, rather than the reindeer’s coat. When applied to the antlers it doesn’t matter which side of the reindeer is illuminated. One downside is the likelihood of the paint rubbing away over time, making it a full-time job maintaining the reindeer’s antler paint.
While the ghostly appearance of a reindeer with glowing antlers would certainly prevent drivers from unexpectedly colliding with one, a few other prevention tools to increase “reindeer awareness” have been put in place as well. A GPS-like service allows drivers to report reindeer sightings to alert others in the area. Instead of tracking traffic jams, it tracks reindeer! Many areas have reindeer crossing signs as well, but they are popular among tourists to seal for souvenirs.
In the meantime, The Reindeer Herder’s Association will continue applying reflective paint to the reindeer’s antlers. Finnish drivers can keep an eye out for spooky glowing antlers—it may just save a life.