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OTHER ITA SITES:
One foggy Christmas Eve, Santa Claus made Rudolph the most popular reindeer of all-time. Once chastised for his red nose, Rudolph's name went down in history when his guiding light saved Christmas for kids the world over.
Folklore aside, and much to the delight of kids in every age group, it's indisputable fact that reindeer really do exist. They may not fly (except for special ones like Dancer and Prancer), but they roam North American landscapes and are commonly known by other names, such as Caribou.
Reindeer are mammals that typically live about 15 years. Most often they are gray in color with splashes of brown, though on occasion a white caribou is encountered. Their coats - or pelts - are thick to help them withstand harsh winters. Since they're typically found in the northern U.S. and Canada, these pelts are essential to their survival.
Some of the most noteworthy reindeer in the world are found in British Columbia, Canada, where reindeer farms are prevalent. On these farms, the caribou are raised for slaughter. After processing, caribou meet - called venison - is taken to restaurants and retail outlets to be sold for consumption. While caribou are not a particularly popular dish, demand for the food does appear to be growing as consumers everywhere continue the trend of testing their palates with new flavors and food combinations.
The reindeer's breeding season is particularly interesting. Known as "the rut," the breeding season lasts for about a month. Typically, the rut occurs in the latter half of September and early part of October. While humans carry their young through a nine-month gestation period, a reindeer pregnancy lasts for approximately seven months. Most often, reindeer calves are born in the months of April and May.
During the mating season, into which young caribou enter at the ripe age of 18 months (they continue to mate until about 10 years of age), the male reindeer - known as bulls - work vigorously. They eat very little and often lose 20 percent of their body fat.
When a female reindeer - sometimes called a cow (confusing, isn't it?) - is about to give birth, she becomes withdrawn and separates herself from the pack. She'll hide from her herd in a protected place, away from the elements. Luckily for her, the birth will only last about 30 minutes once the actually birthing process begins (usually 24 hours or so after she goes into hiding).
Reindeer have velvet-covered antlers and the males grow a mane. Like deer or elk, they are wild animals and therefore do not make good pets, though some people have taken ill-advised steps to attempt making them into pets over the years.
The next time your child or grandchild asks you about Rudolph, you can tell them with confidence that reindeer do exist. You can even offer to drive them past a range where farmed reindeer forage. These reindeer may not look like the friendly, smiling cartoon Rudolph, but their physical presence will assure children that reindeer are in fact real!
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Travel Part B