Q: My kids are big fans, and they have a question. Can all reindeer fly?
A: Only Santa’s reindeer can fly. However, even ordinary reindeer have characteristics that make them special.
Also known as caribou, reindeer are the only mammals that can see ultraviolet light. This makes it easy for them to find lichen to eat and to spot a predator’s fur and urine.
Moreover, while only the males of most deer species grow antlers, both male and female reindeer sport the fancy headgear. In fact, reindeer antlers are larger and heavier than other deer species’ antlers.
Mature males shed their antlers in November and early December, while females and young males drop their antlers during the spring. Christmas paintings depict reindeer with antlers, which suggests that Santa’s sleigh is pulled by females and young males.
Before Santa’s reindeer fly around the world, they are examined by a veterinarian who confirms they are healthy, their vaccinations are current, and they haven’t been exposed to contagious diseases. The examining veterinarian then fills out an official health certificate for each reindeer.
A similar health certificate is required for any animal—including a dog or cat—that travels from one country to another or even from one state to another. So, if you plan to travel with your pets this holiday season, ask your veterinarian to examine them and issue health certificates.
Editor’s Note: For more tips on traveling with your pet this season, visit our essential tips for pet travel blog.
To track the journey of Santa’s reindeer on Christmas Eve, visit noradsanta.org.
Lee Pickett, V.M.D. practices companion animal medicine in Pennsylvania. Contact her at email@example.com.