“If we don’t find better areas for them where they can graze and find food, then the reindeers will starve to death,” Niila Inga said.
His indigenous community herds about 8,000 reindeer year-round, moving them between traditional grazing grounds in the high mountains bordering Norway in the summer and the forests farther east in the winter, The Associated Press reported.
The reindeer already have been pressured by the mining and forestry industry, and other developments that encroach on grazing land.
Now, their food is trapped under a thick layer of ice.
The food is still there, but the reindeer can’t reach it. The animals grow weaker and females sometimes abort their calves while the survivors struggle to make it through the winter.
Unable to eat, the hungry animals have scattered from their traditional migration routes in search of new grazing grounds.
“We have winter here for eight months a year and when it starts in October with bad grazing conditions it won’t get any better,” Inga said.
Half the herd carried on east as planned, while the rest retreated to the mountains where predators abound, and the risk of avalanches is great.
“As long as they are forced to stay there, they’ll get into worse and worse condition,” he said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.