More Than 100 Norway Reindeer Killed by Trains in the Last Week

This video grab taken on November 25 shows a train driving past dead reindeer lying next to the railway near Mosjoen, in northern Norway. More than a hundred reindeer have been hit by trains and were killed in several incidents in the area over the past few days. JOHN ERLING UTSI/AFP/Getty Images

In a grim start to the holiday season, 65 reindeer were killed in a freak accident on train tracks in Norway, bringing the total number of the animals killed to 106 just this week.

The owner of the reindeer struck on Saturday didn't see the train hit the reindeer, but the bloody aftermath told the story. Scattered bodies, blood and hooves lined the train tracks. Some animals that had been struck were still alive, but injured. A videographer captured footage of men in the snow examining the carnage and shooting an injured deer in the back of the head.

According to Norwegian news site NRK, reindeer herder Ole Henrik Kappfjell was leading his herd on a migratory route to an area where he would separate them into their winter pastures. But a speeding train struck 65 of his animals. The accident upped the number of reindeer killed by speeding trains to 106 deaths this week and 250 so far this year.

Tragically, these aren't isolated incidents. Between January 2013 and February 2016, trains fatally struck 2,204 animals in Norway. Most of those animals were migrating reindeer, but that also includes wild moose. "When the animals lie there broke and killed in the railway track winter after winter, you wonder why you're doing this," Kappfjell told NRK.

Kappfjell told NRK that he called the train company and was assured the trains would slow down around the migration route, where he guides his herd of 2,000 annually. However, the train company said that their message to the train operator to slow down never went through due to a technical error.

Residents say this slaughter happens every year, and they wish someone would just build a fence. "We live in the world's richest country," Kappfjell told NRK. "Then it will be possible to set up a few barriers to save the reindeer. This is unacceptable." (Norway is not actually the world's richest country, but it's in the top five, according to Forbes.)

Instead, the train company will have to compensate the herders for their lost animals. But that is not satisfactory to the herders or the local government, who both consider the regular slaughter to be inhumane and wasteful. Reindeer are also taking a hit from the effects of climate change. An estimated 80,000 reindeer have starved to death in the past few years as global warming–linked factors devastated their food supplies.

Reindeer are more than just a holiday icon. Reindeer, which are the same species as caribou, are historically significant as sources of meat and pelts for native people of the Arctic Circle. Some people even ride Siberian reindeer, and yes, reindeer pull sleighs. They just don't fly.