The Midnite Sun Reindeer Ranch outside of Nome is investing in its future by getting local kids involved in reindeer herding now.
“You’ll see the reindeer getting into these amazing poses,” said Jane Atkinson, owner of Running Reindeer Ranch. “And it’s like wow…. Look at this little yoga move that they do!”
Even though reindeer have lived on St. Paul for about 100 years, the tribe hasn’t done much more than distribute hunting permits. That’s slowly beginning to change — because the community needs another consistent source of meat.
On St. Paul, reindeer are responsible for decimating the lichen, but around the world there’s a different culprit, climate change. What’s happening on St. Paul could be a preview of how more northern reindeer herds may adapt to a warmer planet.
A restaurant in Fairbanks that has told customers since 2013 it was serving reindeer tenderloin was actually giving them elk.
After five years of rebuilding their herd and corral, the Midnite Sun Reindeer Ranch is ready to take the next step — fundraising for two mobile slaughter units that would let them process and sell the meat from their business just outside of Nome.
The owner of the Midnite Sun Reindeer Ranch says it’ll take time for Alaska — having herded for just over 100 years — to catch up to places like Chukotka, Norway, Finland and Sweden, countries that have been refining their techniques for 4,000 years.
For the next three months, an experienced herder will stay in Port Heiden to teach everyone about the reindeer.
For decades, caribou have posed a threat to reindeer herders on the Seward Peninsula — their numbers swelling, even as the reindeer population shrinks.