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Herding Reindeer a Way of Life in Remote Arctic

In Russia's remote Arctic regions, people have been herding reindeer for centuries.

Each winter, herders in Russia's sparsely-populated Nenets Autonomous District corral their reindeer into open-air pens before selecting weak animals to be culled.

The cull helps preserve the region's fragile tundra by keeping herd sizes down and local people sell reindeer meat, hide and antlers to make a living.

Above: A herd of reindeer stand inside an enclosure in the settlement of Krasnoyein on Nov. 28.

SERGEI KARPUKHIN / Reuters
A herder allows reindeer to rest while riding along the tundra. SERGEI KARPUKHIN / Reuters

A tent belonging to reindeer herders stands on the tundra.

Krasnoye is the only settlement in the Nenets region connected by road to the regional capital, Naryan-Mar, which is over 2,000 kilometers north of Moscow. Temperatures can sink to minus 40 Fahrenheit in winter.

SERGEI KARPUKHIN / Reuters

Reindeer roam inside an enclosure.

Herders try to maintain the local reindeer population at around 15,000-17,000 animals.

SERGEI KARPUKHIN / Reuters

Herders select and sort reindeer inside an enclosure.

SERGEI KARPUKHIN / Reuters

At the Harp cooperative, the reindeer have their antlers removed before the weaker specimens are taken to the slaughter house.

SERGEI KARPUKHIN / Reuters

A reindeer stands with a herd.

SERGEI KARPUKHIN / Reuters

A herder smokes next to a reindeer whose antlers have been removed.

SERGEI KARPUKHIN / Reuters

Reindeer antlers cut off by herders lie on the ground. Herders saw off antlers from even the stronger animals as they are valuable and fall off by themselves if left to grow.

SERGEI KARPUKHIN / Reuters

Herders select and sort reindeer as the sun rises.

Herders receive a subsidy of 130 rubles ($2.08) for each kilogram of reindeer meat they send to be processed, according to the local government, as well as monthly social support payments.

SERGEI KARPUKHIN / Reuters

Farm employees process reindeer carcasses.

Reindeer hides are salted to preserve them before being sold for export to countries including Finland.

SERGEI KARPUKHIN / Reuters

Reindeer herders cook and eat a meal inside a tent.

Meat subsidies are to be cut by around 40 percent next year because weak global oil prices have hurt the Nenets region which depends on oil for 98 percent of its revenues.

SERGEI KARPUKHIN / Reuters

A man stands at a local holy site during sunrise on Nov. 26.

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SERGEI KARPUKHIN / Reuters