CANADA– Twelve reindeer who live on a family farm in Alberta are popular guests at a dozen holiday events like Santa Claus parades this year. Kids are asking why Rudolph is conspicuously absent from the festivities. Global Animal has investigated the matter. Our source at the North Pole, a heavyset bearded man who asks to remain anonymous, claims that the most famous reindeer of all is busy with last-minute preparations and won’t be traveling until Christmas Eve. – Global Animal
By Jennifer Fong, EDMONTONJOURNAL.COM
You know Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen. But do you know Holly and Ivan and Missy and Abby? They’re homegrown reindeer, raised at Amber Lane, a quiet family farm just south of Leduc.
“Some people don’t believe there is such a thing as reindeer,” says Brendan Bulten. “I’ve been accused of taking sheep and gluing sticks on to their heads.”
Bulten, 25, has been raising reindeer here since he was 15, when his parents Herman and Alice introduced the animals to Amber Lane. The farm’s main commodity was dairy until the Bultens switched to the less labour-intensive business of elk farming.
“I had sheep years ago and then Mom and Dad decided to get elk. Elk and sheep aren’t compatible so they were looking around for something (else),” says Bulten, who also works full-time as a mechanical engineer. The family read about a reindeer farm near Rocky Mountain House in a local farming paper and decided to give it a go.
“They’re nice animals. Fun to be around,” says Bulten. “They’re sort of pets, I guess.”
The Bultens have a dozen reindeer, including a couple of third-generation calves born just last spring. All lead relaxing lives. Bulten feeds the reindeer hay and a mix of rolled oats, beet pulp and peas once in the morning and once at night; the rest of the time, they’re either napping, playing or grazing on snacks of tree leaves and dandelions (in the winter, they like to eat snow.) About a dozen times a year, the best-behaved of the bunch go on field trips with the Bultens to Santa Claus parades and holiday light-ups in the Edmonton area.
People — especially kids —are pretty excited to see them, says Bulten. “They’re always wondering where Rudolph is because they don’t see one with a bright red nose. They want to know if they can fly — if I can make them fly.”
He hasn’t figured that out yet.
Reindeer run wild in northern Europe, Asia, Alaska and the Northwest Territories. They are not native to Alberta and there are only about five reindeer farms in the province, say the Bultens, who also head the Alberta Reindeer Association.
At Amber Lane, reindeer games involve chases around the pen. The animals fight only during the mating season, though Junior has lately been the Rudolph of the bunch, a little bit outcast since losing his antlers early in November (male reindeer typically lose their antlers around Christmas; females lose theirs in the spring.)
Junior sidles up to Bulten often, digging around the feed pail in his hand in search of any remaining bits of oat.
“He’s quite friendly most of the time. They have their own friends too — who they like, who they don’t like.”
Bulten doesn’t have favourites and doesn’t own a sleigh. But who knows? Maybe one day Junior, too, will go down in history.