Reindeer herd in Port Heiden wintering well, growing soon

Dec 23, 2015

Now Dasher, now Dancer, now Prancer, and Vixen ... Santa Claus himself helped feed the reindeer herd in Port Heiden Wednesday.

This picture was taken Wednesday in Port Heiden, where the 14 reindeer are reportedly healthy and well this winter.
Credit Native Village of Port Heiden

While many may be hoping for a chance to see reindeer this week, some residents in one Bristol Bay community are all but assured to. 

Adrianne Christensen, the Director of Business Development for the Native Village of Port Heiden, told KDLG Tuesday that the small herd started last summer is doing just fine now.

Rico Suave, the reindeer bull that Port Heiden hopes will live up to his name's reputation.
Credit Native Village of Port Heiden

“Today we have 14 reindeer," she said. "We have a bull that came to us in September, whose name is Rico Suave. And we’re going to have another shipment of reindeer in a few weeks. We’re hoping for four from Palmer, and these females will be pregnant so we’ll be sure to have some calves in the spring.”

More than half of the reindeer that were introduced were killed in a bear attack in the pen early last fall.  While that setback was disappointing, Port Heiden residents say they weren’t expecting reindeer herding to be easy. The area has a long tradition of husbandry that ended about 80 years ago.     

Right now two herders are keeping a closer eye on the herd, and an electric fence is working to keep predators out of the pen. Aside from the reindeer, they’ve added other livestock too, including pigs.

Credit Native Village of Port Heiden

“We are all very excited about the farming initiative. We want to be a sustainable village, and be sure that if there’s an emergency, we have food for the long term.”

None of the reindeer have been harvested yet. Christensen says the herd needs to grow a little bigger to support culling.

While she doesn’t expect them to fly off anywhere this week, Christensen said a few of the most docile ones may find themselves decorated a bit for the holiday.

(We'll have more on this Friday's Bristol Bay and Beyond at 12 and 6 p.m. on AM670, and 8 p.m. on 89.9FM)

Credit Native Village of Port Heiden