Tracking effort pays off, as police officers corral escaped critter
By Bob Berwyn
FRISCO — Rudolf may be the most famous reindeer of all, but another one of Santa’s sled-pulling critters may become a local legend in Dillon after escaping from his corral during the town’s tree-lighting ceremony Thursday evening.
After leaving the party, the reindeer apparently decided to browse on local goodies near the Dillon Amphitheater, according to local police officers involved in the search.
“It even went up on the stage at the amphitheater,” said Dillon policeman Bryan Wagner, who helped track, and ultimately capture the animal sometime Friday afternoon. “When I got in to work at 7 a.m. Friday morning, my boss said, ‘Whatever you do, find that reindeer,’” Wagner said with a laugh.
From the amphitheater, the tracks led down to the marina and the edge of the water, where the reindeer apparently decided it was time for a refreshing swim. Wagner said the animal swam across part of Dillon Reservoir toward the Denver Water facility at the head of the Roberts Tunnel, along the Dillon Peninsula.
Wagner said the trackers were able to corral the reindeer once, but when they reached for the reins, it scampered away. After tracking it for another three hours, they once again managed to get the reindeer contained near the Denver Water site, where a second reindeer was brought in to — successfully — lure the runaway back into its trailer.
The chilly swim probably didn’t phase the reindeer in the least. As a species of deer that have evolved to thrive in subarctic conditions, they often move across frozen and semi-frozen tundra and taiga, crossing open water as they go.
The North American version of the reindeer is, of course, the caribou, well-suited to life in the Arctic, eating lichen, mosses and willow bark.
Sadly, caribou and reindeer herds are declining globally, partly in response to development and industrial disturbances. Northern migratory herds are also being pinched by global warming.