Cookie

  • Is an 8 1/2-year-old female, born in Washington state
  • Is calm and curious
  • Favorite food is graham crackers
  • Allows Peppermint to stay close, even though she is not the calf’s mother

Peppermint

  • Was born in Anchorage, Alaska in April 2018
  • Named by the Zoo’s Elephant Team for a favorite treat of Sujatha, the Zoo’s elderly Asian elephant who died in October of this year
  • Is full of energy, but a bit shy around people
  • Has little antler nubs, only on her left side

Reindeer or Caribou?

An old joke goes like this: “What’s the difference between a reindeer and a caribou?” The answer? “Reindeer fly!” The two are actually subspecies of the same species. Location also defines them. Caribou are wild reindeer that live only in North America and Greenland. Reindeer refers to wild populations in Europe and Asia, and to all of the species in human care worldwide.

Antlers or Horns?

Reindeer are the only deer species in which both males and females sport antlers. People sometimes call antlers “horns,” but the two are very different. Horns are protein, like fingernails and hair, and are never shed. Antlers are like bone and shed every year.

Suited for the Snow

Reindeer and caribou have two “toes” on each foot, which spread out and act like snowshoes to keep them from sinking into snow, soft ice, and wetlands. Back “dew claws” add traction, and help keep animals from slipping when they run. The undersides of the hooves are hollow, allowing the animals to dig through snow in search of food. Listen carefully when the reindeer walk to hear a “click, click, click.”  It’s not their hooves, but a tendon that snaps over their ankles. The sound may help keep the herd together in blinding snowstorms.

Rudolph is…a Girl?

The story of flying reindeer pulling Santa Claus’s sleigh is an American creation, probably based on traditions brought here by immigrants from Europe and Scandinavia, where domesticated reindeer pulled sleds and sleighs. The eight-reindeer flying team was made famous when Clement Clark Moore’s poem, “A Visit from St. Nicholas” (“’Twas the Night Before Christmas”) was published in the Troy Sentinel in 1823. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer debuted 116 years later, in 1939, when department store Montgomery Ward published Robert May’s verse in a book to give to children at Christmas time. Male reindeer usually lose their large antlers in early December, while the females keep them longer. That means that Rudolph and the rest of Santa’s flying crew just might be female!

Skip the Wrapping Paper

Get creative with concealing presents this year: use recycled wrapping paper, cloth bags, newspaper, or cookie tins instead of buying new paper gift wrap rolls. Reducing the demand for paper saves old-growth forest habitats in reindeer and caribou territory, which is the only source of food for most animals that overwinter in the north.

Cookie and Peppermint are on loan from Windswept Ranch, located in the foothills above Antelope Valley near Tehachapi, California. The facility is home to a collection of animals including camels, llamas, zebra, alpacas, sheep, goats, horses, deer, and reindeer. Many of the animals have been rescued or rehabilitated. For more information, visit the Windswept Ranch website.