Live reindeer in high demand from Lower 48 buyers
In Alaska, it’s unusual but not unheard of for someone to have a reindeer for a pet. But what you might not realize is that there’s a two-year wait list for reindeer calves in the Lower 48, according to Denise Hardy at Williams Reindeer Farm in Palmer.
Hardy said every year they sell 20 of their domesticated caribou to be kept as pets. She said this year they’re already sold out. Now when people call asking to buy live reindeer, Hardy tells them to reach out to a new business in the Valley.
Mike Grundberg opened the Willow Reindeer Park just a few weeks ago.
“I’m pretty much putting all my time and money into the reindeer,” Grundberg said. “I don’t have any money, but I’ve got lots of time.”
He admitted the new tourist attraction is low budget, but said he hopes that by selling just a couple of his reindeer he’ll be able to get the business off the ground.
“There’s just not many reindeer available for sale, very few people who sell them and they’re not cheap. $2,500 seems to be the starting price right now for reindeer,” he said.
Grundberg said he hasn’t always had a thing for reindeer. He said it just fell into place after he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis five years ago. He said he needed to transition of out the career he had with the Yukon River Inter-Tribal Watershed Council.
“I love it,” Grundberg said. “I’m poor and this is the brokest I’ve been in 30 years probably, but the happiest too.”
The Willow Reindeer Park is home to seven reindeer.
“They’re pretty efficient grazers. I like mowing the lawn with them,” Grundberg said.
Grundberg said he won’t sell his reindeer for meat. He’s only interested in other breeders or people who will keep the reindeer as pets, just as he does.
The Reindeer Act of 1937 is a federal law that bars anyone but Alaska Natives from owning Alaska reindeer. Grundberg’s reindeer are from Canada and were originally purchased from Williams Reindeer Farm.