Saturday, July 21 , 2018, 10:14 am | Fog/Mist 65º


Make Way for Reindeer at Santa Barbara Zoo

Santa's helpers visiting Nov. 22-Jan. 1

Reindeer Lightening and Holiday are hanging out at the Santa Barbara Zoo. Click to view larger
Reindeer Lightening and Holiday are hanging out at the Santa Barbara Zoo. (Santa Barbara Zoo)

For the first time in its 54-year history, the Santa Barbara Zoo will exhibit reindeer on view for the holidays, Wednesday, Nov. 22-Monday, Jan. 1.

Two male reindeer, an adult named Holiday and a first-year calf named Lightning, will take up residence on the lawn opposite the Cats of Africa exhibit.

Winter-themed and holiday-related activities take place throughout the season. Santa will be available for gift requests and photos Wednesdays through Sundays, Nov. 22-Dec. 24. There is no extra charge to view the reindeer.

The zoo is open with special hours of 10 a.m.-3:30 p.m. on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. It is open regular hours, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.

“I heard a rumor that Donner and Blitzen are retiring, and these two are the up-and-comers for their flying jobs,” joked Zoo CEO Rich Block. “We’re their warm-weather ‘hoof camp’ due to our great climate.

"They have big harnesses to fill, and we’re here to support them with great nutrition, a highly trained keeper staff, a full-time vet, and ocean views from their temporary paddock across from the lions," Block said.

"Our male lion Chadwick has agreed to an 8 p.m. roaring curfew so the reindeer can get their beauty sleep,” he said.

Lightning and Holiday allow the zoo to help answer questions from local children such as:

Do reindeer really exist? What’s the difference between a caribou and a reindeer? Do both male and female reindeer get antlers? What’s the difference between antlers and horns? How big are their antlers? Do they make sounds? Can they fly?

“This will be the first time many local residents have ever seen a reindeer,” said Block. “The zoo is proud to present these two to the community this holiday season.

"Both of them have antlers, though Holiday’s are a bit puny compared to Lightning’s huge display. Kids are going to love them, even if they don’t really fly.”

The two reindeer are on loan from Windswept Ranch, in the foothills above Antelope Valley near Tehachapi. The facility is home to a collection of animals including camels, llamas, zebra, alpacas, sheep, goats, horses, deer, and reindeer.

Many of the animals at Windswept Ranch have been rescued or rehabilitated. For more information, visit

General admission to the zoo is $17 for adults; $13 for seniors aged 65 and older; $10 for children ages 2-12; children under 2 enter for free. Parking is $7 weekdays, $10 on Saturdays and Sundays. Visit

— Dean Noble for Santa Barbara Zoo.


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