Let the games begin: Reindeer arrive at zoo

November 20, 2019 - 3:57pm



Zoo welcomes Cookie and Ginger, a pair of flightless but furry Siberian reindeer


Let the reindeer games begin! Two furry reindeer arrived at the Oregon Zoo earlier this week, and are making themselves right at home.

"Reindeer are amazing animals, and of course this is the perfect time of year to introduce them to our visitors," said zoo director Dr. Don Moore, who has decades of experience working with the species. "Most people know about reindeer because of their connection to Santa Claus, which is a lot of fun, but we're especially excited to share some lesser-known facts, like the way their hooves click when they walk."

Another fun fact about reindeer? They're the only species of deer where both males and females grow large antlers. Cookie and Ginger, the zoo's two new reindeer arrivals, each sport a large set of antlers. Reindeer shed their antlers every year, with males shedding in early winter and females at the end of the season — which, Dr. Moore points out, would make Santa's team of eight tiny, antlered reindeer all females.

"Reindeer are what's known as a circumpolar species, which means they're found throughout the world's north in places like Greenland, Russia and Alaska," Moore said. "While it doesn't get nearly as cold in Oregon as it does in the arctic, winter is still a great season to see these deer out exploring."

Like all reindeer, Cookie and Ginger are covered in two layers of hair from their nose to the bottom of their feet, for maximum insulation. Their undercoat is fine and soft for warmth, and their top layer of hair is hollow to hold in body heat. The air between the hair layers also keeps the reindeer buoyant in water, so they can swim across big rivers and lakes during migration. The pair is settling into their new habitat across from the Vollum Aviary, where guests can visit them through early January.