A Svalbard reindeer died after getting tangled up in plastic waste

Two other reindeer were also trapped, but eventually freed.

By Siri Gulliksen Tømmerbakke, High North News - September 17, 2019

Plastic waste represents an increasing problem for reindeer on Svalbard, and one reindeer recently died after it got entangled in a big tangle of plastic ribbons.

The Svalbard Governor was Saturday notified by people on a boat who had seen two bull reindeer entangled in plastic waste, Svalbardposten reports.

Staff from the governor’s office responded and found two bulls entangled on the shore. One lay dead in the water, and another could not move. A third bull had managed to get loose.

“The animals are in heat right now, and the (bulls) in particular use their antlers to fight each other as well as things they run into,” says species manager Gustav Busch Arntsen at the Svalbard Governor’s office to Svalbardposten.

“We took control over the animal and guided it back on land, where we cut loose plastic from its antlers. It probably would have died if we had not found out about it and been able to help it out,” he adds to TV2.

The problem with reindeer getting stuck in shoreside litter is particularly high at this time of year. The governor’s office worries in particular about wrapping bands, strong plastic bands used on trawler factories.

It will often end up at sea because someone physically threw it overboard. Tangled knots like the one in which the reindeer bulls at Prince Karl’s Foreland became entangled often occur if there is an error on the packaging machines, according to the governor’s office.

The Svalbard reindeer is a sub-species of ordinary reindeer and the population consists of some 10,000-12,000 animals.