Skip to main content

Find out more about the current wildfire and wildfire-related concerns in the NWT.

Home Story Santa’s reindeer are real – and they live in the Northwest Territories

Santa’s reindeer are real – and they live in the Northwest Territories

They’re the most iconic creatures of the holiday season – and yes, they’re a real thing.

Canada’s only reindeer herd lives up in the Northwest Territories, just a stone’s throw from the North Pole.

And while our Prancers and Blitzens only spend one night a year pulling Kris Kringle’s sleigh, they’re magnificent creatures to behold anytime.  

Here’s what you need to know about Northwest Territories reindeer:

It’s a historic herd

Domesticated reindeer have been herded in the Mackenzie Delta for more than 80 years. It all started back in 1935, when they were brought to the area from Alaska to help relieve a local shortage of caribou.

They’re unique

Now numbering in the thousands, they’re the only free-ranging reindeer in Canada. These one-of-a-kind animals are a significant part of the North’s ecosystem and important to Inuvialuit in the region. Currently, they are the focus of revitalization initiatives in the Western Arctic to grow the herd’s size. The future is exciting for these majestic creatures, both as a sustainable source of food security and as unique denizens across the Arctic landscape.

they’re cozy in the cold

The hide of a reindeer is designed to trap air, providing them insulation in conditions to minus-60 Celsius and colder. That layer of air also makes them more buoyant – a big help when swimming wild rivers.

 

 


Caribou are their cousins

 

 

Reindeer and caribou are really similar – they both go by the latin name Rangifer tarandus. Due to domestication, reindeer tend to be smaller than caribou, more likely to pack together, and more tame.

They have snowshoes

Reindeer hooves are multipurpose tools, perfectly adapted to polar survival. Firstly, they’re like snowshoes – big and broad, with toes that splay out so they float over the drifts. Second, they’re like chisels, ideal for pawing for food beneath the ice ( “caribou” is based on the French word for snow shoveller). Finally, they’re like paddles, allowing reindeer to swim easily.

 

 


They're crazy-fast

 

 

At full throttle, a reindeer can run more than 70 kilometres per hour. Talk about dashing through the snow! They’re not just sprinters – they’re endurance athletes too. Some of them wander more than 5,000 kilometres per year.

They have amazing powers

Reindeer are the only mammals that can see ultraviolet light. It’s thought this gives them an advantage seeing things in the blinding white landscape of the Arctic.

 

 


They migrate every year

 

 

Each spring, usually in early April, the herd is driven close to the Town of Inuvik, making its way from its wintering grounds near Jimmy Lake toward its calving grounds on Richards Island near Tuktoyaktuk.

... which is wildly popular

In recent years the crossing has become popular with local and visitors. It usually coincides with Inuvik’s popular Muskrat Jamboree

These Northwest Territories reindeer are magical and yet very real. And they’ll warm your heart any season of the year.

 

DISCOVER A MOMENT THAT LASTS A LIFETIME. Aylmer Lake Lodge is located in Rocknest Bay, which is on the Barren......

Tundra North Travel is an Inuit company based in Inuvik, Northwest Territories that was established with the dream of being......

Your Dene Connection in Yellowknife. B. Dene Adventures is a Traditional Dene Culture Camp business which teaches the Dene way......

Our company is a tour management and booking services company. We are located at Yellowknife, NT Canada. Our clients come......

Best Northern Road Trip! Now you can drive all the way to the Arctic ocean linking Canada from coast to......

Comfortable lodge a 20 minute by floatplane ride from Yellowknife. Guided fishing for Lake Trout (to 34 lb), Arctic Grayling (to......

With over 30 years of living in Yellowknife, we offer a variety of tourism experiences for our guests. We are......

Book an adventure with us at Trail Blazer Tours for an unforgettable experience! Your adventure with us will create lasting......

If are looking for a spectacular weekend retreat nestled in the serenity of the Mackenzie Mountains at Ten Stone Mountain Lodge. North-Wright......

100% Indigenous owned!  We are the world’s first Aurora Hunting tour company, we know Aurora. Learn about Aurora, why Yellowknife is the......

Remote private wilderness paradise on Little Doctor Lake, 100 km west of Fort Simpson. Accommodates 20 in cabins. Fishing, swimming,......

Arctic Tours Canada is a Yellowknife based tour operating company that offer Aurora Hunting and Viewing tours, Yellowknife sightseeing tours,......

Tukto Lodge has been exceeding anglers’ expectations for more than fifty years. As the only fishing and eco-tourism lodge in......

Yellow Dog Lodge is a comfortable lodge with 3 private cabins for our guests. The lodge is a short (15 minute) floatplane ride from Yellowknife. Located on Duncan and Graham Lakes, the lodge is your hub for adventure. Choose from an additional 5 lakes for guided day trip excursions. Each lake is unique and offers unspoiled first class fishing. We are the only lodge that operates guided trips on each of these remote lakes located in the NWT taiga wilderness. Packaged trips feature superb sport fishing and safe outdoor adventure. The lakes and streams offer the finest Lake Trout, Northern Pike, Walleye and Arctic Grayling in the region. As an added bonus, our guests will enjoy the midnight sun and may even catch the northern lights later in the fall or early spring....

Peterson’s Point Lake Lodge provides you access to known waters teeming with monster lake trout. Their current record is a......

Aurora Village – A Class of Its Own Aurora Village is a unique Aurora-viewing facility situated 25 minutes from downtown......

Come experience world-class Aurora Borealis viewing in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada. We are the only guides in the Northwest Territories......

Join us for an unforgettable experience on the mighty Mackenzie River. Day trips are available for a full or half......

Raven Tours is a tour operator in Yellowknife, NT, Canada. We offer Aurora Viewing, Snowshoeing, and Hiking Tours. We hope to......

Guided hunting, community tours of Tuktoyaktuk and much more. Visit a local home to enjoy a unique opportunity to appreciate......

Book this entire cabin in the remote wilderness of the stunningly breath-taking, Mackenzie Mountains. This cabin is hands down the......

World class dogsled tours! We are one of the largest professional sled dog kennels in Canada. Over 150 happy, healthy......

Pehdzeh Ki First Nation is located in the community of Wrigley, Northwest Territories, Canada. We are a Designated Authority in......

Welcoming and friendly with a rustic charm and all modern conveniences, Grey Goose Lodge immediately catches your eye as you......

Aurora photography tours for groups of 25 or less, available in English, Mandarin and Cantonese. Our tours offer specialized knowledge......

Fishing and Barrenlands wildlife photography, including migrating caribou, at the Obstruction Rapids in the central Barrenlands north of Yellowknife....

To truly experience the Northwest Territories, take your camping gear for a highway driving adventure! Long ribbons of road without......

Remote naturalist’s lodge snuggled in the Mackenzie Mountains, in the largest mountain wilderness in North America. Located along the Canol......

Specializing in polar bear and muskox hunts for up to four people from traditional camp near Tuktoyaktuk. Also providing scenic......

Join us on a subarctic adventure! Spend five nights viewing the Northern Lights, enjoying outdoor activities, and experiencing the culture......

An Arctic Barrenlands trophy fishing adventure for the serious sportsman. Located on Lynx Lake (420 km east of Yellowknife) Lynx......

Call us about our exciting year-round packages and experience the best of the Dehcho region and Denendeh....

Providing culturally based tours of Tuktoyaktuk with an opportunity to dip your toes in the Arctic Ocean! Ask us about......

We offer: Nature and wildlife viewing Snowmobile tours Fishing tours Boat tours Polar bear and muskox hunts. Contact us for......

Family owned and operated tour company specializing in Arctic expedition cruising....