Reindeer in Finland are as common as raccoons in mid-America, except cuter and tamer.

Reindeer in Finland are as common as raccoons in mid-America, except cuter and tamer.

We kept our eyes open for wildlife sightings in Lapland, when we weren't blinded by the midnight sun. It was a relief to be out on the road, out of the city. But right off the bat, driving north from Ivalo in northern Finland, we learned reindeer are easy to spot, and semi-domesticated. They're allowed free range most of the year. Twice a year they are herded for making babies and providing food. Herders even have permission to shoot any unleashed dogs (or wolves, presumably) who may threaten them.

That didn't stop us from taking our fair share of reindeer photos. And eating the occasional reindeer burger.

Wildlife Finland

But from a distance, really, this looked disturbing.

Other wildlife we saw, but weren't able to photograph, included a robust fox, and a small moose. On the other hand, we took many shots of this wildebeest before placing it in the rabbit family. It wouldn't let us get close, and before we had a good look, we identified it as a bird (Kris) and ‘some sort of kangaroo' (Tom).

So wild in Finland, with such long legs.

So wild in Finland, with such long legs.

Wildlife and Domestic Life Finland

These three new Husky pups were just starting to eat on their own.

We're happy, happy, happy to see you, very happy!

We're happy, happy, happy to see you, very happy!

Unlike the reindeer, which I expected to be wild, the Huskies at the farm we visited were not as domesticated as I expected. The farm was home to about thirty adults, three brand new puppies, and ten four-month-old puppies. The teenagers. I personally introduced myself to each and every one of them. Only a couple were too shy to approach me, or too rambunctious for me to approach them. Many had been rescued, most have already been trained to work with teams to pull sleds, and a few are still somewhere along the learning curve. We learned the females tend to be better leaders, more focused. Two of the males were fathers to all the pups.

I'm gorgeous, aren't I?

I'm gorgeous, aren't I?

The farm also was home to five Norwegian Fjord horses. Hard to resist, so I returned to ride with one of the volunteers, Ursula. These small, sturdy horses prefer the frigid winter to the warm summer days.

Into the wildlife on horseback, Finland

These Norwegian Fjord Horses are especially suited as work horses. In winter they pull sleighs. I enjoyed a midday ride with sweet Lilli.

Brown bears in Lapland are supposedly much less aggressive than grizzlies in North America. Of course, there are fewer people around, lots of water, and plenty of fish. The Sami museum in Inari, called Siida, displays the natural habitat, the Lapland seasons, and Sami native culture very well. The only bear we saw was there, and curators may have gone a bit too far to set this scene. (The snowy owl was much nicer.)

Bear with cubs on display at the Sami Museum, Siida, in Inari, Finland.

Bear with cubs on display at the Sami Museum, Siida, in Inari, Lapland.

Some of North Finland's wild is yet to be tamed. The Juutuanjoki (Juutuan River) dropping into Lake Inari, for example, is rough and tumble. In early June, there were still very few rafts or kayaks testing the waters. In less than 200 kilometers, the cold river water joins the Arctic Ocean.

Wild rivers and lakes cover half of Finland.

Hiking paths and shelters are common along the wild Juutuanjoki, racing into Lake Inari.

Finally, up into Norway, the rocks take over the woods, the lichen replaces short ground-cover, and the fog dampens sound and light. Along the sea this day, we didn't even hear birds.

From Norway's northern coast, looking across the fjord to the Barents Sea, just one wild corner of the Arctic Ocean.

From Norway's northern coast, looking across the fjord to the Barents Sea, just one wild corner of the Arctic Ocean.

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