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Reindeer injures old couple in Finland

5/31/2006

HELSINKI, Finland — A reindeer injured an elderly couple in the wilds of Finnish Lapland, in a rare attack that caused injuries needing hospital treatment, officials said recently.

A male reindeer suddenly appeared from a forest and attacked a man who was hiking Sunday with his partner near Kittila, about 620 miles north of Helsinki.

The buck butted the man to the ground and kicked him before turning on the woman who was talking to her son on a mobile phone, Kittila fire chief Jorma Ojala said. The son alerted rescue workers who arrived in helicopters and flew the couple to hospital.

The man and woman were not named, and officials declined to give further details.

A researcher at the Finnish Game and Fisheries Research Institute said the attack came during the peak rutting season when up to 30 female reindeer may be on heat in the territory of one buck.

"Every year in the rutting season, buck reindeer are very possessive about their harems," said Mauri Nieminen, a reindeer expert at the institute. "If a person goes into an area between the reindeer and his females, the buck can easily turn on him or her."

"Normally, reindeer pose no danger at all," Nieminen added.

In Finland, unlike in neighboring Sweden and Norway, there are no wild reindeer. They are domesticated, but are allowed to roam the wilds of Lapland where herders seasonally track them down for branding and slaughter.