As Santa Claus takes off on his annual journey around the world tonight – he’s going to be extra prepared for travelling around Donegal this year.
That’s because two of his reindeer have been living in the county all December to get to know the area – and to find out where all the good boys and girls are living.
With so many towns and back roads to cover tonight, Comet and Blitzen were dispatched to Donegal on a special mission this month.
The reindeer were based at Wild Ireland sanctuary in Inishowen until Christmas Eve. But every night, there have been bizarre sightings of animals flying to and from the sanctuary.
Come morning time, the pair are back enjoying their breakfast hay as they build up their energy for their most important night of the year.
Wild Ireland owner Killian McLaughlin says the only possible explanation for the magical happenings is that Comet and Blitzen have been out on recce missions for Santa.
Killian couldn’t believe it when two surprise arrivals landed at the park on 1st December. But the animal lover couldn’t help but take in the special guests – and they fit right in since reindeer were once native to Ireland up to 10,000 years ago.
“Ever since they arrived there have been some strange things going on here,” Killian told Donegal Daily.
“The bears, the wolves, the monkeys and Naoise the lynx have woken up to find extra gifts to eat for breakfast, and we simply can’t explain where they are coming from.”
The reindeer were a big attraction at Wild Ireland this month as families came to see the pleasant animals and learn some great facts from Killian and his team.
Did you know?
Santa’s reindeer are all female!
Killian explained: “Reindeer are the only species of deer that both male and female reindeer grow antlers. They grow a fresh set every year. male reindeer shed their antlers before Christmas. Females retain their antlers until spring to defend their babies from predators. So unless Santa had a magical way of making sure his reindeer kept their antlers, his reindeer must have been female.”
“Reindeer have huge noses which have lots of veins, which help them warm the cold air as they breathe in. When it gets really cold, their noses fill with blood, giving them a bright red nose!
“Reindeer have a tendon in their feet that clicks when they walk, this means that they can hear each other so can stick together in a blizzard or dense fog.
“Reindeer were once native to Ireland. Their fossils are often found with the great Irish elk fossils. They died out when the climate warmed about 10,000 years ago. With global warming, reindeer may face a similar demise in the rest of the world.
“Reindeer will eat carrots but their favourite food is Lichen, moss and ferns,” Killian said.
So, to all the boys and girls around Donegal, you can sleep well tonight knowing that Santa is guaranteed to find you with the help of his trusty crew members Comet and Blitzen.
The rest of the Wild Ireland residents will be taking a well-earned Christmas break until 27th December when the reserve opens to the public again.
It’s been a special few months for Wild Ireland, which opened at the end of October to bring Ireland’s once-native animals back to the Donegal countryside. Many of the animals are rescued from unsuitable backgrounds, including circuses and the illegal pet trade, and while they are unable to go back to the wild, they have been given a home in a unique sanctuary.
Killian said he has been overwhelmed with how popular Wild Ireland has become.
“The interest that people have in the animals is amazing. And we are so impressed with how people are really respecting the place.
“The animals are thriving in their new homes,” Killian said.
There’s a lot to look forward to in the New Year too, as the three brown bears will be celebrating their fifth birthday in January 2020. The bears will soon be treated to a newly revamped closure thanks to funds donated to Wild Ireland’s GoFundMe campaign.