Taking a walk with a reindeer has become one of the Fairbanks area’s most popular year-round attractions.
After all, reindeer and Alaska are a natural fit, and Running Reindeer Ranch is heading into its ninth season of providing nature walks in Goldstream Valley.
The tour gives visitors the opportunity to mingle with these mostly docile animals that are the domestic version of caribou.
The ranch is located in Goldstream Valley about 12 miles from downtown Fairbanks. The eight reindeer are the stars of the 2½-hour tour on the property owned by tour guide Jane Atkinson and her husband, Doug Toelle. A couple more baby reindeer are expected to be added to the cast later this summer.
On most days, tours can be scheduled for either at 10:30 a.m. or 6 p.m., however, there usually is only one tour per day.
The first visitors who reserve a spot on a particular day get to choose the time of the tour. Anyone else who registers on that day will have only one option. On some occasions, the ranch will schedule a second tour, so visitors are urged to check the schedule online at www.runningreindeer.com. All tours must be booked online.
The cost of the tour ranges from $75 to $100 for adults and $45 to $65 for children age 3-11 depending the day of the tour and how far ahead a visitor registers. It is recommended that children be at least school-age to participate.
The first reindeer arrived at the ranch in 2007 as a compromise for Atkinson’s daughter Robin Spielman, who really wanted a horse. The business started by accident after walks with the reindeer became popular with friends and family.
Atkinson knew little about reindeer before the first one arrived at the ranch but has since become knowledgeable about the history and behavior of the animals. Atkinson said most of the questions she gets are about the difference between reindeer and caribou as well as questions about the animals’ antlers.
The summer tour begins with an introductory safety talk, followed by a walk through the woods on the property and concludes with another talk about the natural history of the area and reindeer. A question and answer period and cookies for tour participants wrap up the day’s activities The ranch has grown larger through the years with the acquisition of neighboring property, enabling the proprietors to offer a variety of trail options.