Recent History – 1999
Oct. 21, 1999
By Jim Sinclair, for the Peace River Block News
Specialty animals can evoke special feelings, especially when those animals figure prominently in cultural folklore — like the “Santa and Rudolph” deal.
There is much more to reindeer, however, than novelty value. Native to northern Europe and Asia, reindeer are well suited to the Peace Country climate. Dawn Abel is the secretary of the Peace River Reindeer Association.
“They come from up around the Beaufort Sea, so they withstand the winter very well,” Abel said. “Summer heat doesn’t seem to bother them either.”
A good number of local specimens are genetically linked to a make-work initiative of the past.
Says Abel: “Over 100 years ago, the Alaska government brought reindeer over from Russia as a source of income for aboriginal people. The project did not work out. The species made its way to the Canadian side in 1935, and eventually to the Peace Country about a decade ago.”
The end products of reindeer include meat, antlers and hides, though Abel points out, “because of the current shortage, they’re primarily raised for breeding stock.”
Asia is home to a traditional market for reindeer antlers and the velvet that adorns them.
“The Asian market is what determines our prices,” Able says. “They use it for its medicinal value. They dry it, slice it, or grind it and put it into capsules.”
Those considering reindeer husbandry as a money-making venture must be prepared for a significant investment in time and money. Mature animals are hard to come by.
“You won’t find many for sale because the supply is so low,” says Abel. “Female calves born in April this year sold in August for $6,000 to $7,000. Male calves, $2,000 to $2,500.”
With antlers being a resource that’s renewed yearly, an upturn in the Asian economy could mean resumed prosperity in the reindeer business, and good news for the more than 20 members of the Peace River Reindeer Association.