If her nose is red it’s been rubbed raw by children

Published 11:19 pm Thursday, December 18, 2008

By By JOHN EBY / Dowagiac Daily News
Holly can't fly, and that's not likely to change by a week from today – but you never know.
"It takes Santa's magic to make them fly," this reindeer's owner, Joshua Brueck, confirmed for a playground full of red-nosed Dowagiac children Wednesday.
Grown reindeer stand 3 1/2 feet at the shoulder and run 250 to 350 pounds covered in a coat that is dense, warm and waterproof.
Given their imposing size, it's easy to see how a grandma could come out on the short end of a Christmas Eve encounter.
Reindeer differ from other deer in that both males and females have antlers.
Their broad hooves act like snowshoes walking in the winter.
Domesticated centuries ago by the Sami in northern Scandinavia and Russia, reindeer are used as draft and pack animals as well as for food.
Reindeer give birth to a single fawn following a 224-day gestation. Twins are rare.
The animals adapt readily to a farm environment and can easily be contained within a 4 1/2-foot fence, as Holly patiently proved twice Wednesday as Justus Gage Elementary School's student body passed her enclosure single file.
Holly's nose should have been smooth and shiny as well as red from all the slow-moving mittens which lingered to caress it.
While Brueck kept Holly calm, Carrie stood at a table on the opposite side of the door from the reindeer pen displaying explanatory photos, antlers, what looks like a little tom tom that emits the sound a young reindeer makes, hoof impressions and a baggie of the lichen she likes to eat.
Lichen is like a moss that grows beneath snow.
When velvety, reindeer antlers contain blood vessels and nerves.
"When it's like this," Carrie said – that is, before the fuzz falls off – "she can feel things."
As the reindeer grows and the rack hardens, that sensation dissipates.
Antlers "start growing in April," Joshua said. "This set will fall off again in April. She holds on to them for a year, but they're only growing from April to August."
Antlers are a reindeer defense mechanism.
"Males use them for dominance, to be head of the herd," Brueck said. "Females hold on to theirs longer than the males and use them to keep the male away so she can get more nutrition from the feed because usually they're carrying a fawn at this time."
Brueck said reindeer, on average, live to the ripe old age of 12, but they have been known to live as long as 20 years.
The Bruecks came from Country Reindeer Farm in Centreville, St. Joseph County, where they also have a male. Both are 2 1/2 years old. Technically, 3 years old is considered fully grown. They've had Holly since she was a month old.
Why do they keep reindeer?
"Just because they're so docile," he said. "We love deer. They're a neat animal and the easiest to work with. They're a lot tamer by nature because up in the Lapland area they've been domesticated longer than horses. We're working with her to pull a sleigh and to do events like this with kids. Any other deer would be too excited. White-tails are too flighty and nervous, so they don't stand there this well. Holly, and reindeer in general, are tamer."
Children wanted to know why the tips of her rack are spotted with red.
It's paint from her travel trailer.
"She sticks her nose out the holes like a dog going down the road and the paint rubs off on her antlers," Brueck explained. "Sometimes they get stuck in the cage and we have to help her get them out."
Reindeer are "very strong animals," he said. "They can carry their own weight on their back and pull twice their weight at the same time."