Reindeer encounters are the stuff of holiday dreams, unless you happen to be driving a car at the time. In Finland, where as many as 5000 reindeer-vehicle collisions occur annually, a Rudolphian solution is being tested.
As Comet and Cupid and all of the other reindeer make their post-holiday trip to visit their families, reindeer herders in Lapland are using a low-tech method of alerting drivers that deer are nearby. An article by the ever-delightful Atlas Obscura reports that employees of Finland’s Reindeer Herders’ Association have applied reflective paint to their charges’ antlers, which will then serve as glowing beacons in the headlights of oncoming cars. (In most subspecies of reindeer, both the males and the females carry substantial racks, in contra your favorite Rankin/Bass holiday special.)
Previous experiments involved spraying the animals’ coats with reflective paint, but that reflection proved uneven, and there’s some speculation that the chemicals interfered with the animals’ natural waterproofing. Antlers, however, are always front-and-center, and they are shed in the spring when the sun returns. A new coating can then be applied during the traditional fall round-up.
With all the money and engineering time spent on avoiding automobile/livestock collisions, it’s refreshing that — in some cases, anyway — all we needed was a shiny new horn.