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December 2023 Wildlife Article – Reindeer and Father Christmas

For almost 200 years, people have associated Reindeer with Father Christmas, which has contributed to the Christmas that we know and love today. The poem "A Visit from St. Nicholas" (commonly known as "'Twas the Night Before Christmas") by Clement Clarke Moore, published in 1823, is credited with popularising the picture of Santa Claus' reindeer, with eight 'tiny reindeer’ named Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donder, and Blitzen.  Over time, these eight reindeer have become the most famous reindeer associated with Father Christmas. They have been featured in countless books, movies, and television shows, and they are now instantly recognizable to children all over the world.

So why would Father Christmas choose Reindeer?  Reindeer are native to the Arctic and sub-Arctic regions, living in the tundra and boreal forests of Russia, Alaska, Canada, Greenland and Scandinavia.  Reindeer are strong and powerful animals, who can run up to 50 miles per hour and can swim between 4 to 6 miles per hour (we’re not sure how fast they can fly).  They can travel long distances without tiring, having one of the world's longest terrestrial migrations, covering up to 750 miles in a few weeks, moving from the tundra in the spring to the boreal forests in the winter and once there covering 9 to 40 miles per day to search for food and shelter.  So the proximity of the Reindeer to Father Christmas's home in Lapland, as well as their physical ability to travel long distances, is ideal for Santa's need to deliver gifts to children all over the world in a single night and that’s why Reindeer are his animal of choice. 

Our parishes do not have a resident Reindeer population, but we have a large population of other deer species visiting our fields and meadows.  We have Red, Fallow, Roe and Muntjac, however only the Red and Roe Deer are native with the Norman’s believed to have introduced the Fallow and Victorians who introduced the Muntjac. The larger deer species are particularly active during the rutting season, which takes place in the autumn and winter, apart from the Muntjac who breed all year round.  None of these species migrate but they do roam and travel across our parishes.  Good places to see them in Risby is down Hall Lane footpath and Lackford Lane, where you can often see them early in the morning or after dusk browsing trees, hedges and shrubs.  Father Christmas’s reindeer are harder to see but you can track them on this website:

Photo: From WIkipedia by G Nilsen

Wildlife Round Up for 2023

This year Risby Wildlife Friendly Village has continued to work to improve habitats for wildlife and people in Risby.  We’ve run a hedgehog survey, have taken part in a mapping project with associated workshops, have been involved in the planters at the Village Hall, have maintained the wild flower spiral as part of the King’s Coronation artwork, have continued to grow the wild areas at the Recreation Ground and around the village, took part in the Open Gardens Event and have run a wildlife outing.

Next year we hope to run more wildlife outings and to continue to maintain the wildflower spiral that is enjoyed by so many residents and visitors to the village with a new theme to be announced.

If you would like to help with the maintenance of the wild areas or would like to be part of the group, please contact us via email:


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