Before the Soviet period, the Uil’ta (previously known as the Orok) followed a mixed subsistence livelihood. In the early 1900’s, authorities selected reindeer husbandry as their primary activity. The Uil’ta people are one of the smallest groups in the Russian Federation numbering 387. There 5 to 7 main families comprising of around 20 – 25 herders that are actively involved in reindeer husbandry, herding between 110 – 120 reindeer.
Herders migrate with their domestic reindeer from the taiga valleys West of the village of Val, to the tundra and birch regions on the coast, particularly south of Pil’tun Bay. Small herd size, an underdeveloped market and limited pastures have restricted the livelihood. There has also been extensive development on the island, related to offshore gas fields and pipelines.