Sweden will build nearly a dozen bridges so reindeer can safely cross railway lines and major roads in the north of the country as global heating forces them to roam further afield in search of food. In Norway, there has been moose bridges and tunnels for years. Read more about how bridges for reindeer in Sweden and moose in Norway save lives for animals as well as humans.
The transport authority in Sweden has announced it aims to start work on the first of the new bridges, named “renoducts”, a portmanteau from ren (reindeer) and viaduct, later this year near the eastern city of Umea.
A dozen bridges over busy roads and railway lines
In winter, reindeer in Sweden feed on lichens buried beneath the snow. However, the climate crisis is making this difficult. Warmer temperatures mean moisture sometimes falls as rain instead of snow. When the air refreezes, a layer of ice forms between the reindeer and their meal, forcing them to wander further in search of ideal conditions. And sometimes, this means crossing busy roads.
By installing a dozen bridges over busy roads and railway lines in the northern portion of the country, the bridges will begin to pop up later this year. After Umea, there are more planned in the northern counties of Norrbotten and Västerbotten.
“In a changing climate with difficult snow conditions, it will be extra important to be able to find and access alternative pastures,” Per Sandström, a landscape ecologist at the Swedish university of agricultural sciences, told Swedish public science radio Vetenskapsradion.
Wildlife bridges in historical context
Wildlife bridges are an effective solution to the problem of helping animals to travel through a world crisscrossed by highways. The first was constructed in France in the 1950s, and they can significantly reduce collisions between animals and vehicles.
The Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute says the country has warmed by nearly 3 degrees Fahrenheit since pre-industrial times. The alpine region has felt this even more, with average winter temperatures increasing by nearly 5.5 degrees since the 1961 – 1990-time frame.
Related: The Arctic Part of Sweden
250,000 reindeer in Sweden
There are 250,000 reindeer in Sweden and 4,500 Sami owners authorized to herd them. Today, the E4 motorway north of the city of Umeå has to be shut down entirely every time a herd attempts to cross. Sanna Vannar, president of the Swedish Sami Youth organization, explains, “Everyone wants to take the reindeers’ area where they find food. But with climate change, we need more flexibility to move around.”
“I’m looking forward to us being able to cross undisturbed,” one reindeer herder, Tobias Jonsson, told the Science Radio, adding that he and his fellow herders were consulted on both the bridges’ location and their design.
Sami herders hope the new renoducts will help.
Around 200,000 moose in Norway
There are around 200,000 moose in Norway. Moose bridges is not news in Norway – they have existed for years as a standard feature of all highways leading out of the capital of Oslo, as well as across the high-speed train to the main airport.
On average, drivers hit 18 deer every day in Norway. According to reports from Gemini Researchers each collision cost society about NOK 200,000 (USD 23,500). Specially designed overpasses and ecoducts allow animals to safely migrate across roads and save animals, humans as well as costs.
Bridges for Reindeer in Sweden and Moose in Norway Save Lives for Animals as Well as Humans, written by Tor Kjolberg