Step aside, Rudolph — your red nose is no longer en vogue. This season, apparently, it’s all about the glow-in-the-dark antlers.
Breeders belonging to the Reindeer Herders' Association have started spraying the animals’ antlers with reflective paint. But it's not really about winter style, but rather traffic safety. Every year in Finland there are 3,000 to 5,000 accidents involving reindeer, says Anne Ollila, head of the association.
The glowing antlers, that only shine when light falls on them, should make the reindeer more visible to drivers.
There are about 200,000 reindeer in Finland, writes Süddeutsche Zeitung, and most of them are allowed to roam freely. Ollila says they are testing two different sprays on 20 animals right now – one kind is sprayed on antlers, the other on their pelts, but the antler spray is probably the one that will be put into wider use as it lasts longer and glows brighter.
The goal is for drivers "to be surprised, to stop, and not run over our reindeer."
The animals don’t react to the spray, says Ollila, and if all goes to plan a second test round will begin this fall. Then, the question will be how their natural predators – wolves, bears, and eagles – react. "We don’t know if they can see the spray," Ollila adds.
The spray is manufactured by the Swedish company Trackinvent that typically applies it on bikes, jackets and dogs. "We’re the first ones to try it out on reindeer.”