Nome reindeer head for celebrity life in Alabama

Posted: Monday, January 27, 2003

ANCHORAGE - About 30 reindeer from Nome made a stopover in Anchorage on Saturday afternoon, heading for a life of star appearances with Santas at malls in a region where snow is nearly as rare as reindeer.

The animals were purchased by Reindeer Inc., a Huntsville, Ala.-based company that hires reindeer out at Christmastime and wants to expand its herd.

Everts Air Cargo flew the animals from Nome to Anchorage. Reindeer Inc. handlers loaded the reindeer into a trailer at the Everts warehouse. From there, the handlers planned to put the trailer on a barge for a 66-hour trip to Tacoma, Wash., and a three-day drive to Alabama.

The Alaska animals cost $300 a head. Usually, Reindeer Inc. gets its animals from West Texas.

"It was cheaper to come up here and get 'em than it was to buy them locally," said handler Jim O'Neill.

Handlers went to Nome to select 30 animals from a private, free-running herd. They rounded up about 2,000 with snowmachines, then picked 33 of the most desirable. The flight was the first reindeer transport in a long time for Everts, though the company handles plenty of dogs, chickens, goats and cows, said operations manager Pete Mejia.

"So maybe we actually have a resource other than oil to export," Mejia said. "Maybe (Gov. Frank) Murkowski could get reindeer farming going."

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