OSLO (Reuters) - Norwegian reindeer owners have a Christmas safety tip for Santa -- put reflectors on his fleet-footed animals so they won't get hit by cars.
About 2,000 reindeer have been fitted this month with reflective yellow collars or small antler tags to cut down on the car crashes that now kill 500 reindeer a year and pose a danger to motorists across Arctic Norway.
"It really works," Kristian Oevernes, the leader of the project at the Norwegian Public Roads Administration, told Reuters of the project in Finnmark, where the sun does not rise in mid-winter.
A test drive on a snowmobile showed that marked reindeer were far more visible in the dark than others. Several people are injured every year in car accidents involving reindeer, and one recent accident in Finland was fatal.
"I guess so," Oevernes said, when asked if Santa might take up the safety tip.
"This is the first time it (reindeer marking) has happened on this scale."
Sami herders had tried small experiments to attach reflective tape to the animals but the glue failed in the cold. Finnish herders had also tried a reflective spray, but it reduced the fur's ability to keep out the chill.
About 200,000 reindeer live in Norway, mostly owned by Sami indigenous people who raise them for meat, skins and antlers, according to the International Center for Reindeer Husbandry.
If the new project is successful, supporters say, reindeer owners or vehicle insurance companies might be interested in buying reflectors.
(Editing by Paul Casciato)