Fact Check

Is This a Reindeer with Glow-in-the-Dark Antlers?

A meme about reindeer with glow-in-the-dark antlers shows that truth and fiction sometimes come together in strange ways.

Published Jul 12, 2021

Updated Jul 12, 2021
 (Instagram / vasjenkatro)
Image Via Instagram / vasjenkatro
A photograph shows a reindeer in Finland that had its antlers painted with a glowing fluorescent coating in an attempt to reduce traffic accidents.
What's True

Finland has made several efforts to reduce the number of reindeer-related traffic accidents over the years, including spray-painting the creatures' antlers with fluorescent and reflective paint. However...

What's False

This viral image displayed here is a digital artwork, not a genuine photograph of a reindeer.

In July 2021, an image began circulating on social media that supposedly showed a reindeer with glow-in-the-dark antlers. The picture was shared online along with the claim that farmers in Finland had painted the antlers with a reflective coating in order to make the animals more visible at night and reduce traffic accidents:

reindeer with glow-in-the-dark antlers

The image was not a genuine of photograph of a reindeer with glow-in-the-dark antlers, but rather a picture of a digital artwork. However, the claim accompanying the image did not stray too far from reality.

The above-displayed picture was created by digital artist Vasjen Katro, who posted it to his Instagram page in February 2020 after he heard about attempts in Finland to make reindeer more visible to drivers. Katro, who is well-known as a digital artist but not a photographer, posted his image alongside the hashtag #c4d, which is a reference to the Cinema 4D digital effects and animation software suite:

Although this image was an artwork, it reflects that fact that in 2014, herders in Finland attempted to reduce the number of reindeer that die due to traffic accidents by painting their antlers with a reflective paint, as BBC News reported at the time:

Herders in Lapland are spraying their reindeer with reflective paint to help drivers see them in the dark, it appears.

The special spray is being tested on their fur and antlers to see how it holds up in different weather conditions, Finnish national broadcaster YLE reports.

"The aim is to prevent traffic accidents. The spray is being tested on fur at the moment, but it may be even more effective on the antlers, because they are seen from every side," says Anne Ollila, chairwoman of the Reindeer Herders Association.

As many as 4,000 reindeer die in traffic accidents every year in Finland, the Finnish Game and Fisheries Research Institute says. Most incidents occur in the dark months of November and December, when roads are prone to becoming icy, the Helsingen Sanomat newspaper reports.

Here's a genuine image of a reindeer with glow-in-the-dark antlers (left) that was taken in 2014, along with the digital artwork (right):

Unfortunately, this "glow-in-the-dark antlers" plan didn't really reduce the number of reindeer deaths from traffic accidents. A few years later a new method was tested, a mobile app that allowed drivers to warn other motorists about reindeer sightings, but it doesn't appear that plan had had much of an impact either -- a chart from the Reindeer Herders' Association shows that as of 2020, about 4,000 reindeers were still dying every year due to traffic accidents:


Correction: The status sections for "What's True" and "What's False" were accidentally reversed in the original article.

Dan Evon is a former writer for Snopes.