Alaska Reindeer Experience: Running Reindeer Ranch

My little brother got us tickets to a reindeer playdate, it was quite interesting!

Our second day at the cabin in Salcha, AK we decided to venture out the opposite direction, West of Fairbanks. My little brother was looking up local attractions and came across and ad that said ‘Reindeer Play-date’. Interested, he went ahead and signed us up, and had our time scheduled.

Not knowing what to expect, we packed up the truck and headed for town. When we arrived we were surprised at how many people came out to see the reindeer, the event was held at a family’s residence, the ones that tend to the reindeer and run the tours.

World Famous Running Reindeer Ranch Cookies

  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup butter (use only butter, no margarine or shortening)

Mix together well

  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla (just the real stuff, no imitation flavor)

Mix well

  • 1 cup of flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 5 cups of oatmeal (whole rolled oats, not instant oats).
  • 1 cups dark chocolate chips (Ghirardelli 60% cocoa chips is what I use)
  • 1 1/2 cups coconut (I use the unsweetened coconut in the bulk section of our local stores.  Bob’s Red Mill also has great coconut, If you use sweetened coconut (not recommended) reduce sugar.

Optional: 1 cup walnuts (I don’t add nuts when we have guests because of the potential allergy issue, but when I make them for myself I prefer nuts)

Bake at 350 for 10 minutes or so. *Credit for recipe: Running Reindeer Ranch

Life on the Ranch

The whole operation was super simple, we checked in on a tablet and then they let you walk up into the woods behind their house and see the reindeer milling around. It was cool to be able to interact with the animals and pet their soft coats. One of the reindeer decided that I was trouble, so he tried to poke me with his antlers, it was quite funny!

Playful and funny. This does not begin to describe these animals. The size of reindeer was surprising, they were not very tall or wide, except for the larger male. I was expecting more the size of Caribou, you can see the similarities and differences below.

‘Although the similarities between reindeer and caribou are numerous, the differences are enough that they are classified as two subspecies. Reindeer and caribou share the same genus, Rangifer,and species name, tarandus. Domestication is the biggest difference between reindeer and caribou. Reindeer are a semidomesticated subspecies of Rangifer, and there are many subspecies of both reindeer and caribou in Alaska.

Reindeer are shorter, stouter and more sedentary than their long-legged caribou cousins, and although reindeer may migrate within their grazing range, they do not migrate long distances between wintering grounds and calving areas as caribou do.’ [1]

Reindeer Facts

Reindeer hooves expand in summer when the ground is soft and shrink in winter when the ground is hard.

Both the males and females grow antlers.

The name “reindeer” is of Norse origin (from the old Norse word “hreinn” for deer) and has nothing to do the reins of a sled. The name “caribou” comes to us through the French, from the Mi’kmag “qalipu,” meaning “snow shoveler.”

Once the entire body of a reindeer was found inside a Greenland shark (most likely a case of near-shore scavenging, as opposed to a migrating land shark).

Their noses are specially designed to warm the air before it gets to their lungs. [2]

Little bro made a new friend!

Join us for a walk through the woods with the reindeer

‘This one-of-a-kind tour will be the highlight of your trip to Alaska. Our reindeer take you through a guided nature walk in the boreal forest. There you will learn about the natural history of the forest as well as the reindeer themselves. Enjoy the frolicking and leaping reindeer as they run free through the woods. Each walk is a unique experience depending on season, trail conditions and the mood of the reindeer. After the walk, depending upon the season, we will tour our organically grown perennial and vegetable gardens and enjoy light refreshments and carry on the conversation.

This nature walk has uneven terrain, so good walking shoes and weather appropriate clothing are required. Our reindeer are tame but not trained so sometimes they decide to take a route not planned for. Bring your cameras and expect the unexpected!’ Check out their website.

Running Reindeer Ranch: 1470 Ivans Alley, Fairbanks, Alaska



[1] “Reindeer … Caribou … What’s the Difference?” UAF Newsroom: Reindeer … Caribou … What’s the Difference?,

[2] “Reindeer: 12 Fascinating Facts About These Amazing Creatures.” The National Wildlife Federation Blog, 20 Dec. 2018,

Overall, the experience at Running Reindeer Ranch was great! The family was super informative and fun, and the reindeer were a pleasure to photograph, pet and watch as they explored the area and milled around.

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