We all know it comes but once a year: Santa landing on your roof (or nearby if inconvenient) with his reindeer. I have been made to promise that I’ll get on the roof on Christmas Day and see if I can spot the reindeer tracks. Thanks. So for those of you who don’t have easy, year round access to Santa and his reindeer (ie: don’t live at the North Pole), then here are a few signs to keep an eye out for.
Reindeer prints, when compared to other deer (such as our local Fallow deer), are unusually round and easy to spot. Compared to fallow deer, only a bit smaller in stature, whose prints are long, narrow, pointed with very parallel outer walls to the cleave towards the rear of the print. Other things that set them apart from other deer prints is that the dew claws on a reindeer are very low to the ground so they are often seen as two points or holes in the ground behind the rear of the print. Reindeer prints are often wider than they are long (8.5cmx10cm) compared to fallow deer (7cmx4.5 cm).
As far as print spacing (stride length) a fallow deer prints they tend to be around 70-130cms apart unless they are in full flight (galloping as much as 40 miles an hour) when the stride length be as far as 3.5 metres. Reindeer usually walk or trot as galloping and jumping is rare and they have a stride length of around 100-120cm. Although your ‘bog standard’ reindeer’s stride length at a trot is more like 130-150cms Santa’s reindeer have a stride length of about 15km and travel at 4500 miles an hour.
Obviously landing is a much bigger issue for Santa’s Reindeer. They have to drop onto areas, fully loaded, the ‘size of a postage stamp’. This deceleration, with sleigh, will cause an absolutely mahoosive skid mark on the roof. This is very different from a reindeer or a normal deer print. Most notably these do not have sleigh runner skid marks of twenty feet that accompany stopping a 2 gazillion tonne sleigh in less than 15 yards.
The other thing to look out for is the feeding sign you might spot when the reindeer are stationary. Whilst Santa shimmies down the chimney with his big sack they are usually browsing around for a quick nibble to recharge their batteries. This is where a roof is ideal. Reindeer love lichen more than any other food (even cookies, oats and tinsel or sugar cubes). Luckily the northern tundra and many a roof has plenty of lichen on it for a quick snack. Fallow deer on the other hand don’t usually eat lichen and like to browse new leaf growth and during winter they are quite partial to tree-bark. Reindeer are less prone to nibble bark (although they like a good fray just like the next deer!). So if your roof has had its lichen nibbled then its probably reindeer and not fallow deer.
Of course, no one ‘sign’ will be conclusive. It is usually a couple or more sign (I like using the ‘rule of threes’ in tracking: three corroborating clues) if you think a reindeer has landed on your roof. There may well be scraping and skuffing marks from Santa scrambling up to the chimney (pretty conclusive). The other is that there will be nine reindeer tracks and a ruddy great skid mark from a pair of sleigh runners (another very good clue). Missing cookies, milk and ‘quick snifter’ PLUS a full Christmas stocking is most definitely a 100% positive ID.
Good luck and Happy tracking!