ST. GEORGE — Wondering if Mr. Claus will make it down the chimney tonight? Don’t worry, Southern Utah, the paperwork’s all in order.

Stock image for illustrative purposes only | Photo by Vladimir Melnikov/iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

The U.S. Department of Agriculture issued a news release announcing that Mr. S. Nicholas Claus’s transit permit application was approved by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

This will allow Claus’s Gifts and Good Cheer, Inc. to enter and exit the U.S. via his reindeer-drawn sleigh “with jingling bells attached,” beginning at 6 p.m., local time, on Christmas Eve. Claus is expected to transport various cargo, including “brightly wrapped gifts.”He will exit the country by 6 a.m., Christmas Day.

In the release, Jenny Lester Moffit, undersecretary for the department’s Marketing and Regulatory Programs, said the USDA is delighted to grant Mr. Clause and his reindeer a special permit.

“(This ensures) a seamless journey for the joy they bring each holiday season,” she said. “We extend a warm welcome to Mr. Claus and recognize the vital role of U.S. milk and cookies in fueling his festive flight.”

The North Pole native didn’t appear to receive any special treatment, however, as the animals still needed to pass a veterinary inspection — luckily for millions of little girls and boys, they passed, according to Dr. Rosemary Sifford, the department’s chief veterinary officer.

Stock image for illustrative purposes only | Photo by Kyryl Gorlov/iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

“At a recent inspection, the reindeer were found to be healthy and able to prance and paw with each hoof,” she said in the release.

Still, one famous reindeer stood out during the inspection.

“It was noted on the health certificate that one reindeer, Rudolph, has a minor physical anomaly,” the release states. “However, APHIS indicated that Rudolph’s red nose, while bright, was normal for him and not a concern.”

The service’s inspection was part of its larger responsibility regulating the movement of cervids like reindeer, elk and mule deer to protect livestock health throughout the country by providing “assurance that only healthy animals enter the United States,” the department states.

“Port personnel will clean and disinfect the runners and underside of the sleigh at the time of entry,” the release reads. “They will also conduct a short visual inspection of the reindeer. Mr. Claus has been asked to disinfect his boots and thoroughly wash his hands. These measures are intended to prevent the entry of any livestock diseases the team may encounter during deliveries to farms and houses around the world prior to entering the United States.”

In this file photo, the North American Aerospace Defence Command tracks Santa Claus at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado Springs, Colo., Dec. 23, 2019 | Photo by David Zalubowski, The Associated Press, St. George News

Claus reportedly cooperated throughout the process, saying he appreciated the department’s assistance while preparing for the “big night.”

“It’s important that Gifts and Good Cheer, Inc. take all the right steps and precautions to protect against the potential introduction of pests and diseases,” he said.

To watch for Claus’s arrival, Southern Utahns can follow his journey using a map provided by the North American Aerospace Defense Command, known as NORAD, available online or via the NORAD Tracks Santa app. The command has been tracking his journey across the globe since 1958.

“The moment our radar tells us that Santa has lifted off, we begin to use the same satellites that we use in providing air warning of possible missile launches aimed at North America,” according to the command’s website.

The command tracks Claus’s progress via satellites over 22,000 miles above the ground in geosynchronous orbit, which are “always fixed over the same spot on the Earth,” its website states.

Deer walk through a juniper forest, Kanarraville, Utah, Nov. 20, 2023 | Photo by Alysha Lundgren, St. George News

“The satellites have infrared sensors, meaning they can see heat,” the command writes. “When a rocket or missile is launched, a tremendous amount of heat is produced — enough for the satellites to see them. Rudolph’s nose gives off an infrared signature similar to a missile launch. The satellites detect Rudolph’s bright red nose with no problem.”

Those who miss Claus’s reindeer click, click, clicking on their rooftops can still see local cervids: mule deer and elk.

The animals are most active at dusk and dawn and are frequently seen in or near wooded areas, St. George News reported previously. Because mule deer mate in November and December, they are often found in larger groups and males are particularly visible.

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