Nikiski family welcomes reindeer calf

One Nikiski farm just got a whole lot cuter.

The Hansen family welcomed a baby reindeer Tuesday when their pregnant female reindeer, Dancer, gave birth. The family has raised and trained everything from cattle and horses to goats and a pig over the years, said Jenna Hansen. They got involved with reindeer five years ago, said her mother, Hara Hansen.

Hara said she and her daughter Megan Ward did not want to disturb Dancer, who is relatively new to their home, so they filmed the birth on Ward’s phone through a pair of binoculars through their window.

Hara said the birth has gained attention on the Facebook page the family created for the reindeer, named Scene of the Crash. The Facebook live video of the birth had nearly 3,000 views by Wednesday afternoon.

“I was looking at the stats and it was like, ‘Holy cow!’” Hara said.

It all began with a trip to the Alaska State Fair in Palmer, where Jenna saw reindeer and decided to raise one through the 4-H program. She spent time researching the animals and even took a trip to the University of Alaska Fairbanks, which houses the Reindeer Research Program, Hara said.

Now a sophomore attending college in the Lower 48, Jenna said training reindeer was the next step after gaining experience with several other animals.

“You can’t get much more Alaskan than (reindeer),” she said. “And so I wanted to try something new.”

The family started out with Crash, a male reindeer that Jenna could not bring herself to sell at market after raising him. Instead, she has used funds from raising and selling a steer to support keeping the reindeer and bringing them to schools for educational purposes over the years, Hara said.

“Even though it was intensive, it is completely worth it,” Jenna said.

The next reindeer the family got was Comet, another male. He and Crash have been making the rounds on the central peninsula since then, appearing at holiday events to pose for pictures. People can take as many photos with the animals as they want, Jenna said, and any donations the family gets from them are given to support homeless children, usually through the Kenai Peninsula School District’s Students in Transition Program, she said.

“She’s done that for six years and even though she’s a sophomore at college, she still comes home at Christmastime and does the reindeer pictures,” Hara said.

The family members talked over the idea of expanding their number of animals, and Jenna said they came to the decision to sell Comet in order to obtain a pregnant female. Hara got Dancer from the Reindeer Farm in Palmer, and Comet will go to the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center in Portage.

“They needed a trained reindeer that is used to being in the public for demonstrations and education,” Hara said. “And he’s absolutely perfect for that.”

To her knowledge, Hara said Crash, Dancer and the new baby are the only reindeer on the Kenai Peninsula at this point.

Still at college, Jenna said it’s hard knowing she has to wait another month to meet the newcomer.

“I was huddled over my phone with like three other people,” she said of watching the birth.

The family members are asking for help in naming the new female. Jenna won the Caring for the Kenai contest in 2012 with the idea that eventually grew into the family’s jewelry making business, Alaska Sea Glass. Ward has continued on with the business while Jenna is at college, Hara said.

Alaska Sea Glass is offering two glass necklaces with etched caribou, Hara said. One will be given away via random drawing and another will be awarded to the person who comes up with the best name for the baby reindeer.

For more information on how to enter the naming contest, visit the Alaska Sea Glass Facebook page.

As for the future of the reindeer, Jenna said she hopes people can keep enjoying them during the holiday season, and that it continues to generate donations for homeless youth.

“I want it to keep being a community project,” she said.

Reach Megan Pacer at megan.pacer@peninsulaclarion.com.

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