Heavy snowfall and chilling temperatures of minus 30 degrees C do not deter criminals in northern Russia.
Now police trying to maintain law in the region are struggling on their snowmobiles and want to use reindeer to combat crime on the bleak tundra.
They say that that mammals are more reliable than their machines and can run fast on deep snow thanks to their adaptable hooves.
Some areas of the country’s Arctic region are only accessible by reindeer and the Izvestia newspaper has reported that a gang of Siberia’s indigenous people are using reindeer to make a speedy getaway from crime scenes, leaving police on snowmobiles in their wake.
Of the 163 crimes reported in the Yamalsky municipality in western Siberia, which were mainly drunken brawls, robberies and ‘acts of hooliganism,’ indigenous minorities committed 127 of them.
Russian police chasing the criminals told the newspaper that their snowmobiles can break down and run out of gas—unlike reindeer.
Irina Pimkina from the region’s Interior said: “Of course we have snowmobiles in service, but one should understand that a machine is a machine.”
“A snowmobile can break down or get stuck in the tundra, but the deer will run at all times.”
The force believes that the animals will give them an edge in policing the remote area and they have been asking for reindeer recruits for two years.
Reindeer’s hooves are unique because they adapt to seasonal weather conditions, Mother Nature Network reported.
When ground is soft in the summer, the bottoms of the animal’s hooves act like sponges to provide traction, while the rim of the hoof becomes exposed in the winter.
This means that they can cut into ice and snow to stop them from slipping. They even use them to dig down through hard snow so they can find their favourite food—a lichen known as reindeer moss.
The vision of reindeer may also outperform a snowmobile’s lights, because the animals can see ultraviolet light.
Snow reflects up to 90 per cent of UV light and this ability helps the animals to see clearly in dim lighting and landscapes that are largely white, where many objects blend unto the landscape.
Things like fur and urine, for example, show up clearly in ultraviolet light, compared to what humans see.
A study by University College London (UCL) revealed in 2011 that reindeer can see light with wavelengths as short as 320 nanometres (nm), considerably below the human threshold of 400 nm.
Researchers from the University of Tromsø discovered that the eyes of reindeer change colour according to the seasons too.
They wrote: “Arctic reindeer eyes change in colour through the seasons from gold through to blue to help them better detect predators.”
While it may seem funny that policemen could use reindeer like a police car, the country’s navy already uses animals to enforce rules.
The Russian Defence Ministry uses donkeys patrol the country’s mountain ranges, while the Navy employed the help of dolphins to enable them to detect underwater mines.