Lapland’s Lemmings On the Move

Northern Finland is experiencing its largest lemming migration in 20 years, according to this article in Helsingin Sanomat’s “International Edition” (we never miss an issue!).

Though the little rodents (Norway lemmings, Lemus lemus) have not yet begun swarming in a locust-like frenzy, they have been turning up all over Lapland, including drowned in the nets of salmon fishermen, clinging to the oar of a rower and attached to a woman’s ankle as it bit her.

i-7e48e800d9f11a8c884b05749ec2f2c4-Lemming II.jpg
Isn’t this how The Omen starts?

One popular myth about lemmings is that they react to overpopulation by leaping off of cliffs to their death. While they sometimes do fall to their deaths, they are not consciously committing suicide. Instead, overpopulation and density triggers a migration reaction in the little rodents, causing a frantic and single-minded migration across long distances in search of greener pastures. They are often be so focused on moving forward in a frenzied rate, that they can plunge straight off of embankments, as seen in this video.

They might look cute, but they do not have a reputation for cuddliness. Lemmings can be fierce little buggers, bearing their teeth when approached and decimating entire sections of countryside of vegetation. In fact, the word “lemming” comes from the Norwegian “lemmus” which means destruction.

Are there any up-and-coming death metal bands in our reader-base? Feel free to use the name. Lemmus Lemmus: Princes of Decimation. We are also partial to the name, World War IV.


  1. #1 sylvie
    September 5, 2007

    we checked out the finnish newspaper article this came from. It is a mass of Norwegian Lemmings, the species, but they are not in northern norway, they are in finland. FYI.

  2. #2 Andrew Bleiman
    September 6, 2007

    wait, there’s a difference!?

    kidding. thanks, fixed.

  3. #3 David
    September 6, 2007

    So I always though that the lemmings jumping off the cliff was a myth, and was promoted by Disney during a nature show they did back in the 60’s. To know that it’s not true and there was a reality to it is interesting.

  4. #4 Sacha
    September 6, 2007

    While Lemmus Lemmus is still free, it seems that Lemming is already taken as a band’s name. And they look like a jolly lot.

  5. #5 Benny
    September 7, 2007

    Holy Crap!

    Lemming is currently my favorite band…and I haven’t even listened to their music yet!

  6. #6 Peter
    April 5, 2008

    The Disney film was called White Wilderness. I kept a copy because the producers of the show were once accused of forcing the lemmings over the cliff. YouTube has some of the footage.

  7. #7 courtney
    April 22, 2008

    I didn’t lemming till we had to draw one in class today. And i have to research them as homework and find things out about them. And i am shocked to hear that they jump off cliffs hurting themself.

  8. #8 Silje
    September 4, 2008

    I like this site but I did not get the feeling of comming any closer to the Lemming…can you show me a video there a lemming gets a stroke, because I have heard that the Lemmings can be so frightened that they get a stroke…

  9. #9 lafanda laquisha
    September 23, 2008

    i hatee this websitE!

    thank yoy for your understanding 🙂

  10. #10 Cheyenne
    October 20, 2008

    this thing is lying i live in nunavut and we have tonns of lemmings. they do NOT hurl themseives off cliffs.

    you guy are LYING LYERS

  11. #11 Stephanie
    November 7, 2008

    No, lemmings don’t HURL themselves off cliffs in a suicidal manner, but repeated observation and studies do show that they have a tendency to frantically (and unknownly) run off of cliffs and plummet to their death in search of food and during migration times. Check out a recent article on Discovery Channel’s site:

  12. #12 Herald Bofink
    March 30, 2009

    I have researched this phemonomena of creature, the lemming or better known as Lemminicus Domesticus and I have found their sweet disposition truly an inspiration to other creature and their mothers.

  13. #13 Herald Bofink
    March 30, 2009

    I have researched this phemonomena of creature, the lemming or better known as Lemminicus Domesticus and I have found their sweet disposition truly an inspiration to other creature and their mothers.

    What many persons are unaware of is the Lemming’s tendancy to sprout wings under great pressure. This embodiment of the ‘fight or flight’ reaction is quite unique, with the exception of the bird. However, as each generation of lemming passes, each offspring aquires this ability less and less and less. Creating a hoop of disaster as the lemmings still believe that they can fly.

  14. #14 Paul C. Smith
    December 2, 2010

    I am teaching a wildlife course in winter quarter 2011 and would like to use this clip as a teaching tool to illustrate one of the reasons why animals migrate and as an example of effects of overpopulation in a niche. How or where can I find a copy for such a use.

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