We Adopted A Reindeer!

September 9, 2020
Guess What? We adopted a reindeer and his name is Sven! Our friends over at Leavenworth Reindeer Farm are forced to shut down due to the WA State Governor's orders. At the risk of having to close their farm, due to lost income, they decided to offer the opportunity for people or businesses to adopt one of their reindeer until the end of the year! We of course adopted Sven! Each week they send us an update about Sven or about what is going on around the farm.

Week 1

week1 Sven

Click the photo above for the week 1 video

Week 2

The fun stuff happening behind-the-scenes this week has been watching the reindeer continue to rub their furry velvet off their antlers. This happens every year at this time and signals the start of breeding season. When a reindeer sheds their velvet, they are ready for "the honeymoon suite" as we like to call it. This year we are using Blitzen as our breeding bull. He is hanging out with his 5 girlfriends; Elsa, Belle, Snowflake, Pearl and Vixen. When you watch the videos, you'll see we put fresh trees inside their pens to give them something natural to rub their velvet on. Reindeer love to rub their hard antlers against the branches of a tree. It helps to sharpen and whiten them. When the bone inside the velvet antler is fully hardened, the velvet begins to itch, and it's time to rub! The velvet pulls all the blood supply, calcium and nutrients up to harden the bone underneath. Velvet works as "Antler Air Conditioning" which is helpful in the late summer months as it circulates blood and helps maintain a consistent body-core temp of 101-102.

Pregnancy/Baby Update: Anna is still acting very pregnant! She is either ready to calf any day now or she wins an OSCAR for her convincing performance ;). She is showing all the signs, not joining the herd for snack time, pacing the fences and regularly walking into the enclosure (where she will likely go into active labor). Does anyone have baby name ideas for us?  Let us know! 

-Erika
Owner, Leavenworth Reindeer Farm
Sven week2

Click the photo above for the week 2 video

Week 3

Did you know it's 100 days until Christmas? The reindeer should begin their flight training soon. But first, THE RUT. If you aren't familiar with rut season, it's when all the reindeer get a bit twitterpated (name that movie!). Testosterones and hormones are raging and this is the only time of year that the herd gets separated. Currently, we have 3 pens. Pen 1 is our Breeding Bull Pen: Blitzen, Pearl, Belle, Snowflake, Joy and Vixen. Pen 2: Sven, Kristoff, Freja, Kodiak and Forrest. Pen 3: Elsa, Anna, Sugar Plum, Noel, Blizzy and Moonshine. They will only be separated like this for about another month. If you adopted a reindeer listed in the breeding pen, you will notice we don't do as much video. A bull in rut can be deadly and we try to limit our time spent in his pen. I tried going into Blitzen's pen last week and I ran for my life to the gate when he spotted me. He is very protective of his beautiful girlfriends.

Every bull except Blitzen has been given a hormone shot called Depo which lessens the onset of Rut and makes them safe to be around. We use Depo when we don't intend to breed them. All of our bulls are in-tact. An in-tact bull will typically only live an average of 5 years. Your healthiest bull might drop dead of a heart attack at the onset of rut due to the influx of testosterone. Depo shots lower their testosterone, significantly extending their life expectancy. Rut will last about 2 months. We are lucky that Blitzen is a VERY docile breeding bull. When Blitzen drops his antlers, that signifies the end of rut and the herd can be reunited. Reindeer bond for life, and Blitzen's youngest girlfriends Joy and Pearl will be happy to be back with their moms again. The other bulls will likely keep their antlers longer into wintertime due to the hormone shots they received.

If all goes well, we will have 5 more babies on the farm next spring! And speaking of babies, Anna is still ACTING pregnant, but no other news to report on that. You'll be the first to know if we know something either way.

-Erika
Owner, Leavenworth Reindeer Farm
Sven week3 1

Click the photo above for the week 3 video

Week 4

This week we want to share a little bit about our reindeer's nutrition and diet. You'll notice in your videos that it's a lot of fun for the reindeer when we bring in fresh trees. It's not visible in the video, but there are small amounts of lichen moss on the bark and the needles and they love to forage for it. Later in the winter, we will bring in lots of trees loaded with lichen. Right now, we are supplying the herd with an abundance of willow, birch and aspen trees. The leaves on these trees are highly nutritious. Willow, for example, is loaded with nutrition and is a natural anti-inflammatory. Reindeer are LEAF eaters, and prefer leaves and lichen over grasses. In addition to fresh leaves, they have open-feed on a reindeer pellet, whose ingredients were specially formulated at the Univ of Alaska Reindeer Research Program in Fairbanks. We also give them Alfalfa in the evenings, which keeps them busy foraging for it's small flakes (they do not eat the stalk). Do you remember Sven's big teeth in the movie Frozen? Those were his Disney teeth. Reindeer do not have upper teeth, only a hard upper palate and iddy-bitty lower teeth. Other treats they love are dandelions, fireweed and mushrooms! We try to keep their diet as NATURAL as possible and avoid sugars and anything they wouldn't eat in the wild.

-Erika
Owner, Leavenworth Reindeer Farm
Sven week 4 cover

Click the photo above for the week 4 video

Week 5

You've probably heard the song "Up on the Housetop ... Click, Click, Click" ... That brings us to this week's educational reindeer topic, yes, they do actually click when they walk. Reindeer develop a clicking sound at around 1 year of age, when a tendon begins slipping over their back elbow, which makes that famous sound heard on rooftops all over the world on Christmas Eve. Scientists believe this is useful for Reindeer Herds in white-out conditions in the Arctic. Baby Reindeer listen for their Mother's Clicking and can stay near them so they are not separated from the herd during a snowstorm. Just one more reason we love this fascinating species!

-Erika
Owner, Leavenworth Reindeer Farm
Sven week5 cover

Click the photo above for the week 5 video

Week 6

This week we wanted to talk to you about being part of a HERD. We often talk to our guests about how reindeer are HERD animals. What does that mean? Reindeer form herds which we can compare to social groups or families. They bond for life. Permanently separating a reindeer from its herd causes extreme stress and can even lead to death. Once a year, for 2 months during breeding season, we separate the herd. Our breeding bull (Blitzen) is in the bullpen with his girlfriends, while the rest of our herd is in the other half of the reindeer enclosure. Sometimes we separate during calving season, especially if a mom & new baby need some time to relax and bond. Other times we may need to separate for a few days if there is a minor injury that needs to heal. While temporarily separating our herd is necessary to ensure their safety, it doesn't cause stress on our reindeer because they can always see into the next pen. Reintroduction is always an interesting day! When the herd gets separated, they form a new pecking order. That order is disrupted and challenged when they become one herd again. This week we are sharing a video of what it looks like when reindeer participate in an antler challenge! This is perfectly normal and is usually pretty fun to watch. Once the herd settles their chain of command, they can all be one happy family again. It doesn't take long at all. 

-Erika
Owner, Leavenworth Reindeer Farm
week6title

Click the photo above for the week 6 video

Week 7

Reindeer Hooves splay out, sharpen and harden as they get ready for winter. Working as 3 distinct tools for them, the reindeer hoof acts as a SNOWSHOE, SNOW SHOVEL and a PADDLE! First up ... snowshoe! Remember how we said the hoof splays out? We are attaching an up-close view of the hoof as it begins to spread out for winter. This will help them stay above the snow and ice. The edges then begin to harden and sharpen to act as a snow shovel. Reindeer can survive primarily on lichen moss alone in the winter, and they can smell this yummy moss up to 2 feet beneath the snow's surface. When they smell dinner, they get to work digging for it with their sharp and handy hooves. Last but not least, the hoof is concave underneath and acts as a paddle in the water. In fact, the concave hoof gives the reindeer so much speed in the water, they can outswim Michael Phelps. You heard that right. Reindeer can swim 6.2 mph. Go for the gold, Rudolph!

-Erika
Owner, Leavenworth Reindeer Farm
week7 cover

Click the photo above for the week 7 video

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