MORE ABOUT REINDEER
Every state has different requirements for purchasing reindeer. Please check with your state veterinarian to find out the regulations for your state. We are a monitored herd, NOT CERTIFIED for both Chronicle Wasting and TB/Brucellosis. You could contact the Reindeer Owners and Breeders Association [R.O.B.A.] to find a herd in your state that has been monitored! We do not sell reindeer meat!
Reindeer and caribou are the only members of the deer family where the cows and calves have antlers. They drop their antlers each year and grow a new, larger set. The bulls drop theirs after the “rut” in November-December and begin growing a new set in February-March. The calves and yearling bulls keep their antlers on until March-April, drop them and grow a new set. The bred cows keep their antlers on until after their calves are born. When growing, antlers are soft, spongy and full of blood and tissue. They are sensitive, and the reindeer do not like people to touch them. They are covered by a furry skin and this stage is called “in the velvet.” The antlers harden in August and then the reindeer rub the velvet off.
The rut is a breeding period of about 2-3 months, normally September-November, but ours seem to be rutting earlier each year. In 1990, they began in mid-August. The mature bulls chase the young bulls around and generally make life miserable for everyone. The mature bulls need to either be in separate pens or fields or have a large enough area that the dominant bull will not be able to trap and injure or kill other bulls.
The gestation period is 224 days, with the majority of calves being born in April. The calves weigh 10-20 pounds, about the size of a large house cat with long skinny legs! They are up and walking within hours of birth. The mother’s milk bag is quite small and the calf can empty it in less than a minute. They nurse frequently and the milk is supposed to be one of the richest of any mammal, reaching up to 18% fat. Reindeer normally have single births. The calves grow rapidly and can weigh 125 pounds by the time they are 4 months old.
Their hair is hollow and gives them buoyancy when crossing rivers. It also insulates them in the winter. They can live in extreme temperatures and do not need shelter in the winter, as they just curl up in the snow. If it is very cold, they can drop the temperature of their legs to 33 degrees and just heat their bodies.
Most of the reindeer in North America came from Siberia, brought over in the 1890s by Sheldon Jackson, a Presbyterian minister, who wanted to help the natives in western Alaska have a reliable source of food. Our deer come from a herd that was sold to Canada in 1927. The herd is located at Tuktoyaktuk, Northwest Territories, Canada. The temperature there ranges from the 80s in the summer, to -75 degrees in the winter. Reindeer can be kept in hot climates but must have good shade and water available. One deer owner in Texas says he puts wet sand on a barn floor and uses fans to cool them in very hot weather.
We feed the reindeer a broad-leafed grass hay and allow them to graze. They will eat grass, weeds, and leaves. The pellets are made of barley, vitamins, minerals, salt, and molasses. We mix the pellets with the “spent grains or beer mash” from the breweries in Anchorage, and ground hay – it makes a very nutritious feed. They are fed twice a day, getting about 5 pounds per deer per feeding.
When we brought the reindeer to our farm, we kept them in a small pen with 6 foot high walls for a few days until they had settled in, and recognized that this was where they would be fed and not hurt. After that, we released them into a field with a six-foot high fence. It is very important to have a fence that is predator-proof, especially around calving time [dogs have been our worst, but whatever you have in your area]. High-tensile strength “game fence” is best, very tightly installed so they won’t tear it with their antlers. Any loose wire is something to play in!! DON’T CLEAR the ground for them!! They love trees and bushes. They need shade in the summer. We also use 5′ x 16′ welded wire panels with uniform squares. Those are even better, as they are indestructible.
- WHY REINDEER?
- They can be raised as a lean, tasty source of meat
- The antlers can be sold when in the velvet stage (Chinese medicine uses antler for a variety of different ailments and it is also considered to be an aphrodisiac)
- Reindeer make good pets, as they are gentle and friendly
- They can be trained to pull sleds or carts and give rides. Ours have pulled “Santa” in his sled to a mall at Christmas
- Our reindeer have also gone to picnics and festivals to give rides, have competed in The World Championship Reindeer Sled Races at the Fur Rendezvous in Anchorage, have been paid to be in many commercials, including a “Chevy, tough-like-a-rock” commercial filmed on our farm with our horses and reindeer, 3 feature-length movies, and posed with a New York model on a glacier for an ad in Vogue magazine. They also attract thousands of tourists to our farm in the summer months!
INFORMATION FOR POTENTIAL REINDEER BUYERS
We sell a limited amount each year in order to keep our numbers up but still provide you with deer. We do not keep a list of buyers. The time to contact us if you are interested in purchasing a reindeer is July. We wean babies early August and have a good idea as to what will be available for sale. We will deliver the reindeer in crates, with health certificate to Anchorage International Airport as part of the sale price. We have shipped over 200 reindeer to about 20 states over the past 10 years – all have been delivered safely and alive! When you’re ready to purchase reindeer, we recommend reading this “Reindeer Health Aide Manual” from Cooperative Extension Service at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks.
- FIRST STEPS
Contact your state’s veterinarian to find out if your state considers reindeer to be livestock (under”Agriculture”) or wild animals (under “Fish and Game”). Ask if reindeer are allowed in your state, and if so, what tests are required for their health certificate. Our herd has been tested for Tuberculosis and Brucellosis. Our herd is negative for both.
After you find out if the reindeer are under “Agriculture” or “Fish and Game,” contact the appropriate agency to find out what kind of fencing is required by your state. If there are whitetail deer in your area, and you are east of the Mississippi River, you will want to have fences high enough to keep them out. White-tail deer can carry a brain worm that is deadly to reindeer, caribou, moose, and llamas. It requires a cycle that involves a certain kind of tree, a snail, and white-tail deer and is in only a few areas of the eastern U.S. If you have any moose, caribou, reindeer, or llamas in your area, you don’t need to worry about this. Otherwise, you will want to have fences high enough to keep white-tail deer OUT! And don’t buy hay from fields that have the infected white-tail deer on them.
Contact airlines to find out WHO ships from Alaska to your area, and what the rates are. We have shipped by Delta, Northwest, and Alaska Airlines to Seattle, Salt Lake City, Denver, San Francisco, Portland, Chicago, Detroit, Atlanta, JFK New York, St. Louis, and Minneapolis without problems prior to 9/11. We stopped shipping for awhile due to regulation changes because of 9/11. Recently, we have shipped on Alaska Airlines to Seattle and to Haines, without any complication. We have been told Delta might take reindeer as well, but have not yet attempted to use them. The adult crate size is: 38″ H x 24″ W x 68″ L. The antlers will need to be sawed off on large deer so they can fit comfortably in the crates.
All animals need testing and movement permits whether within the state of Alaska or out of state. An instate permit takes around 3 weeks to 1 month to get the test results back and permit to move.
When the reindeer first arrive, they will tend to try to escape to “go home,” so ideally, have a small pen with 6 to 7-foot high fence or walls to prevent this. Have grass, hay, water, and feed dishes or trough there. They will call it home after a week or two and then they can go out into a bigger pen or field with 6-foot fences. Reindeer like to “play” in the fence with their antlers. The fence wire should be high tensile strength and stretched tightly or they will cut holes in it with their antlers. It should be predator proof. Neighbor dogs have been our biggest predator problem. We have used corral panels covered with plastic fencing (like snow fence) and that works well until they are rubbing the velvet off their antlers, and then they tear it up!!
- ON ARRIVAL
Unload crates into a pen. Open the door and leave them alone – they will come out on their own. Make sure they have snow, or water. They may go back into the crate to sleep for a night or two.
Don’t attempt to train them for a few weeks. Give them time to settle in, call it home, and get used to the people around them. Go in the pen to feed. Some will approach you and let you pet or hand feed them. Others will be skittish. Reindeer are less “spooky” than other kinds of deer, but they still like you to move slowly and talk softly until they get to know you. Some feel less threatened if you are sitting or kneeling down. We tamed our first deer in 1987 from the tundra of Northwest Territories, Canada. We didn’t look them in the eye, we sat with a big bowl of reindeer pellets and waited until they came to us. After a few days, we were able to pet them on the nose a little as they ate from the bowl. Then we held onto the halter for a few seconds, increasing the amount of time and pressure each time. Then, we could put a rope on and take them out of the pen for some grass. Soon, they looked forward to that!
We put pieces of bread and apple in with their food to get them used to it. Some think of it as a treat.