There is a rich and diverse wildlife on Hardangervidda, here you can read what you can come across and get a glimpse of whether you are lucky.
Villrein (Wild reindeer)
The reindeer is the most important animal on Hardangervidda. What are the chances of seeing wild reindeer?
The reindeer originally wandered freely across Europe. Through climate change, hunting and domesticated reindeer husbandry, the wild reindeer has become extinct in the rest of Europe. Today it is only found in 23 fragmented areas in southern Norway. Hardangervidda is the largest and only area in the country where the wild reindeer have enough space to make their annual natural migrations.
The reindeer are important for Hardangervidda
The wild reindeer is unquestionably the most important animal in the plateau. Not long after the ice receded, the incredibly resilient and adaptable wild reindeer settled in Hardangervidda. The wild reindeer are constantly migrating across the plateau between the winter grazing lands in the east, and the calving areas and summer grazing lands in the south and west. Hardangervidda is a typical habitat for the wild reindeer, with long and harsh winters with scarce resources, combined with short intense summers where it's crucial to gather enough food before the next winter.
Although over a quarter of all wild reindeer in Norway live in Hardangervidda, the chances of spotting them from the national park route are relatively small. During a car trip along the national park route, you can stop at one of the viewpoints along the road, take out your binoculars, and look for herds in the mountain sides several kilometers away. If you're lucky, you might spot a herd.
Why do we see them so rarely?
- Wild reindeer migrate in large herds across Hardangervidda. Northern Europe's largest mountain plateau is slightly larger than 8000 km2, which is bigger than the counties of Østfold, Vestfold, and Oslo combined. It's understandable, then, that the chances of you and a wild reindeer herd being in the same place at the same time are slim. Wild reindeer are timid and tend to keep distance from humans and areas with much traffic.
What should you do if you see the reindeer?
- Use binoculars to observe the wild reindeer from a distance.
- Stay calm if you see wild reindeer, so it can move away undisturbed
Wild reindeer as a food source since the Stone Age
Since the dawn of time, humans have hunted reindeer. At times, the reindeer was the most important game animal for humans. Therefore, we find numerous traces high up in the mountains on Hardangervidda from past hunters, dating back to the Stone Age, i.e., nearly 8000 years ago. These hunting memories tell us stories of a hard life in a marginal natural area for both reindeer and humans, where the forces of nature were the number one challenge.
Hunting wild reindeers
In recent years, the wild reindeer in Hardangervidda have often been located in Vinje's part of Hardangervidda, but also in Tinn, much to the delight of local hunters. For many in these villages, the reindeer hunt is still one of the highlights of the year. The hunt takes place both inside and outside the national park boundaries, but within the area declared by the authorities as the habitat of the wild reindeer. The size of this area is roughly twice that of the national park itself.
Want to see more?
- Visit Hardangervidda Nasjonalparksenter, with it's interactive exhibition on wild reindeers
- Norsk Villreinsenter and Villreinrådet i Norge have gathered information about wild reindeers on a website: www.villrein.no
- Fakta om villrein
- Villreinens leveområde - regional plan for Hardangervidda
- See how they use Hardangervidda on Dyreposisjoner
Fjellrev (Arctic Fox)
Are there Arctic foxes in Hardangervidda?
The Arctic fox has been protected since 1930, yet it seems challenging to establish a stable Arctic fox population on Hardangervidda. The authorities are trying to release pups into the wild, but there is much uncertainty about how successful these efforts are.
Does the Arctic fox survive?
One reason the Arctic fox has struggled to survive is the significant increase in the red fox population in recent years. According to experts, another reason could be the lack of larger predators like wolves and wolverines, as the Arctic fox is a prominent scavenger.
It's possible to spot moose along the Hardangervidda National Park route.
- Elgsafari in Rauland is your best chance to see moose along the National Park route. Guaranteed!
- Facts about moose
Here are some tips for those who want to spot moose on their own:
- Moose are most active and easiest to spot at dawn and dusk.
- Look carefully for moose when you pass logging fields and meadows, these are the places where you're most likely to spot them.
Are there moose in Hardangervidda?
The king of the forest also lives in the high mountains! The moose has expanded its habitat, notably within the Kvennadalføret in Vinje. Here, a vibrant moose population exists that is also hunted. Nowadays, it's not unusual to encounter stray moose in the high mountain plateau.
In the transitional zone of mountain birch forests surrounding Hardangervidda, moose have also become more common, even though they've faced competition from an increasing deer population in recent years. The increase in both moose and deer populations is often associated with the rising tree line.
It's not uncommon to see beavers in rivers along the Hardangervidda National Park route.
Originally, beavers were found in large parts of Northern Europe. Due to their fine fur, beavers were eagerly hunted, and in many places, they were completely eradicated. Many place names on Hardangervidda suggest that beavers must have been more common in the past. Bjoreio in the west and Bjordalen on the East Plateau are examples of this. In Europe, they survived only in five countries, including Norway. Here, a few were left in Agder and Telemark.