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Police: Over 100 cases of berry pickers getting lost in Finnish forests this summer

People often become disorientated as they walk around the forest picking berries, but the reasons for this are not clear.

A missing berry picker is typically discovered four to five hours after they are first reported missing, according to Risto Mertala, senior constable at the Lapland Police Department. Image: Antti Ullakko / Yle

Police across Finland have dealt with over 100 cases this summer where a person picking berries in a forest has become lost and is reported missing. The highest number of cases, 40, were reported in Lapland.

Risto Mertala, a senior constable at the Lapland Police Department, told Yle that a missing berry picker is typically discovered four to five hours after they are first reported missing.

While the majority of people reported missing in Finland during the summer are berry pickers, Mertala noted, hikers and the elderly can also become lost in Finland's forests.

"Often the missing person is found within the same day," Mertala said.

In many cases, the lost person will find themselves circling around, particularly if they are moving in dark or open terrain.

The general feeling of going in circles when lost is real, but the reason for this is not fully understood, according to Marja Hietanen, adjunct professor of neuropsychology at the Helsinki University Hospital.

"The question is really interesting and there is no clear answer," Hietanen said.

One hypothesis suggests that moving in a circle is connected to the human balance system.

"It is believed that small errors in balance perception would accumulate while walking forward, leading to one going in circles," Hietanen said.