Much like department stores around Santa Barbara County, the Santa Barbara Zoo is calling in some reinforcements for the holidays.
For the second consecutive year, two female reindeer — Cookie and Peppermint — are making residence at the zoo, just in time for a plethora of winter-themed activities that the zoo hosts each year.
Cookie and Peppermint come to Santa Barbara from Windswept Ranch, located in the foothills just above Antelope Valley, near Tehachapi. The ranch also features camels, llamas, zebras, alpacas, sheep, goats, horses and deer.
The duo will be located on the backside of the zoo, before patrons get to both the lions and giraffe exhibits. There is no extra charge to view the reindeer.
One of the most popular times to check out the new housemates will be at the Snow Leopard Festival — which now has added importance considering the zoo has also welcomed Kisa, an 11-year-old snow leopard.
Kisa’s arrival comes only months after losing both Everett and Zoe, two beloved snow leopards. The zoo has cared for snow leopards since 2004.
“Both Everett and Zoe lived very long and full lives and were wonderful ambassadors for this species, which faces so many challenges in the wild,” said Dr. Julie Barnes, the zoo’s vice president of animal care and health.
Ms. Barnes also explained that Kisa — which means “kitty” in Russian — will live out her golden years in Santa Barbara, as the 70-pound feline is a non-breeding female that has never produced offspring. Kisa comes to Santa Barbara from the Hogle Zoo in Salt Lake City, where they are looking to make room for breeding snow leopards.
“At eleven years old, Kisa is a mature snow leopard, so she will likely live out her golden years with us. As adult snow leopards are usually solitary in the wild (outside of mating season or a female raising young), the Santa Barbara Zoo is a perfect option for Kisa’s new home,” Dr. Barnes said. “So far, Kisa is acting a bit shy, and still getting used to her new surroundings. She has access to both her holding and exhibit areas during the standard 30-day quarantine period, so our guests may be able to see her as early as this week.”
The zoo will be open from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, with normal hours (10 a.m. to 5 p.m.) on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.