Oglebay Good Zoo offers reindeer encounter

Mindy White, curator of animals for Oglebay Park’s Good Zoo, feeds a female reindeer at the zoo’s new exhibit, as Jes Arnold, a part-time animal keeper, holds the rope. — Scott McCloskey

WHEELING — Oglebay Park’s Good Zoo has built a new reindeer exhibit just in time for the Christmas holiday.

To enjoy the exhibit — referred to as “Santa’s Reindeer Training School” by zoo officials — patrons have the option of viewing the animals during regular zoo hours or signing up for a 30-minute group encounter with the two female reindeer. Encounters for groups of six or fewer are available daily at 11 a.m., 1 p.m., 3 p.m. and 5 p.m., seven days a week, for a fee.

Appointments may be made by calling (304) 243-4100, and walk-in appointments are offered based on availability.

Those signing up for the encounter not only will have the opportunity to learn about reindeer in general, they will also get to feed them and walk the reindeer with a lead rope — weather permitting — inside the exhibit area with zoo employees offering assistance, according to Mindy White, curator of animals for the Good Zoo.

White said the reindeer have a “nice” temperament and people of all ages are signing up for the encounters.

“They actually get to come in with the reindeer and spend a little bit of time with them, feed them a little bit and get the lead to train them a little bit for Santa Claus,” White said. “We talk about reindeer in general, talk about their physical characteristics and talk about their natural habitats.”

The larger reindeer is 8 years old, while the smaller one is just over a year old, according to White. She said the exhibit will be a permanent display at the Good Zoo year-round.

Zoo hours during the holiday season are 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays; 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Fridays and Saturdays. The zoo will be open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve; 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. Christmas Day and 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. New Year’s Day.

The introduction of the reindeer exhibit coincides with the park’s annual Winter Festival of Lights, which features almost 90 light displays along a 6-mile drive through the park. The Festival of Lights continues nightly through Jan. 1.