Freight Trains in Norway Kill 110 Reindeer in One Terrible Week

This isn’t the news anyone wants to hear, especially during the Christmas season. In Norway, during a single week, eight freight trains barreled into herds of reindeer walking across the tracks. More than 100 of the animals died or had to be euthanized hours later because of their injuries.

Three major collisions over a four-day period did most of the damage. The first, on a Wednesday, killed 26 reindeer. One on Friday killed 15 more and the last on Saturday killed 65. About 250 reindeer have died this way in the past 12 months.

Reindeer herds migrate at this time of year from their summer pastures to their winter mountain habitat. Herders stay with the domesticated herds, making sure they get where they’re going as safely as possible. At points, these herds need to cross railroad tracks. They can’t avoid it.

Unfortunately, the herders don’t know when freight trains are rocketing down the track toward them until their herds are already crossing the rails. The end result is a heap of dead and dying reindeer who never had a chance to get out of the way. It’s horrible and heartbreaking.

“When the animals lie there broke and killed in the railway track winter after winter, you wonder why you’re doing this,” reindeer herder Ole Henrik Kappfjell told Norwegian news site NRK.

“It hurts, because we know each and every one of our animals,” herder Torstein Appfjell told The New York Times. “When you herd, you see things like this often and you put your feelings aside. But this particular scene will be burned into the retina of my eyes forever. Sixty-five animals in one crash — it’s a catastrophe.”

Appfjell had to shoot 15 reindeer to put them out of their misery.  Then, he said, he had a drink to calm down.

Unfortunately, trains mowing down animals as they cross the tracks at the wrong time isn’t an isolated phenomenon. It happens in Norway all the time. Between 200 and 600 reindeer died in such accidents annually since 2010. In 2016 alone, 2,016 elk, deer, reindeer, sheep and others died in this cruel way.

Reindeer herd during winter migration.  Photo credit: Thinkstock

Reindeer herd during winter migration. Photo credit: Thinkstock

The citizens of Norway are outraged. They want the national railway to find a way to avoid this kind of carnage. I have to say I agree with them.

In 2010, after a significant number of train/animal collisions made the news, Bane NOR, the railway, erected some fencing in several northern Norway areas between the tracks and the woods. Clearly, it’s not enough.

There’s a notional “warning system” that goes from Bane to train drivers, instructing them to reduce speed at certain locations because of nearby reindeer herds crossing the tracks. Bane says there was a “technical failure” that failed to get that warning to those drivers.

“Trains killing deer, elk and other animals has been a gruesome problem in Norway for years,” the Norwegian Animal Protection Alliance’s Live Kleveland, told The New York Times.

“The government needs to address the situation with more fences in some places and mandatory speed reductions in other. We want digital surveillance to be implemented. Modern technology should make it simple to warn the train drivers,” she added.

Photo credit: Thinkstock

Photo credit: Thinkstock

Kleveland’s correct, of course. Don’t we have the technology today to avoid this kind of accident from happening? These weren’t even wild animals we’re talking about – they’re under the care of herders. Most of the time, we can know at any given time where they are.

Surely there’s a way for the railway to communicate with train engineers more effectively? Can’t experts find a way to use GPS to track where the herds are and relay that information in real time to the trains?

We can do this so easily for vehicular traffic. One day, we ought to be able to say “there’s an app for that” to keep track of herd locations in relation to actively moving trains.

Come on, Norway, your trains are killing the iconic animal symbol of Christmas, and they’re doing it during the holiday season, for crying out loud. Put on your thinking caps and fix this problem. We have the technology. Apply those principles and resolve this perpetual carnage.

If you’d like to urge the government of Norway to find a way to stop these railway deaths, sign this Care2 petition.  The more voices raised against this situation, the more likely it is that something will be done.

Photo credit: Thinkstock


Marie W
Marie W4 months ago


Sheri P
Sheri P9 months ago

So tragic! If the trains were killing pedestrians, you know they'd be looking into a solution.

Mark Donner
Mark Donner10 months ago

Overpasses, Norway. But that would involve spending a little money, and Norway has a reputation for having no problem killing off wildlife for greed. They virtually wiped out the wolves that had to escape to Sweden from Norway's homicidal rednecks. And these Norwegian neanderthals won't stop viciously killing whales in spite of the objections of the entire world community.

Cindy M. D
Cindy M. D10 months ago

I hope the government and the herders work together and come to a solution that will protect these wonderful creatures. Seeing those pics broke my heart - tears falling :(

Barbara P
Barbara P10 months ago

This is just horrible. How the heck did one train kill so many animals

Angelika K
Angelika Kempter10 months ago

Thank you for sharing- signed-

Teresa W
Teresa W10 months ago

signed with hope

Teresa W
Teresa W10 months ago


monica s
monica shepherd10 months ago

There must be certain areas where the reindeer are crossing. The then must be black spots for the train drivers to be aware of. A loud horn through an amplifier could be used for the black spots warning the herders.

Amber M
Past Member 10 months ago

Thanks for sharing.