Youngsters are encouraged to watch the skies for Santa's flying reindeer this week, and report any sightings on the Oregon Zoo's Web site.

andquot;The science of reindeer flight continues to evolve as new data pours in every Dec. 24, during their once-a-year migration,andquot; said Tony Vecchio, flying-reindeer expert and Oregon Zoo director. andquot;I'm asking anyone who sees flying reindeer to e-mail me the details, such as where they saw the reindeer, what time it was, how high they were in the sky.andquot;

Vecchio has studied flying reindeer for 10 years and hopes to gather new data during the elusive creatures' once-a-year migration.

He is asking children around the world to report their sightings by visiting

All reported sightings will be documented on a map located on the zoo's Web site. Visitors can of Vecchio discussing his theories while feeding the flying reindeer's cousin, the Roosevelt elk.

Vecchio first began studying reindeer flight when he was asked to theorize the concept for Robert Sullivan's 1996 book andquot;Flight of the Reindeer.andquot;

Throughout the month, the zoo hosts a variety of holiday-themed activities, including ZooLights (through Dec. 31), Presents for Primates (Dec. 14), Winter Break ZooVenture day camps for kids 4 years of age through fourth grade (Dec.18-22 and Dec. 26-29), and Holiday ZooSnooze for kids 6 years of age through 12 (Dec. 30).

The zoo opens at 9 a.m. daily and is located five minutes from downtown Portland, just off Highway 26. The zoo is also accessible by MAX light rail line.

General admission is $9.50 (12-64), seniors $8 (65+), children $6.50 (3-11), and infants 2 and under are free. A parking fee of $1 per car is also required. Additional information is available at or by calling 503/226-1561.

When to Look for Reindeer

? Look on Dec. 24 to increase your chances. Typically they migrate during this time of year; however they have been spotted during other times of the year.

? Look during the day too. Reindeer spend hours training to stay in shape.

? Reindeer are always on the move. They work hard during the day and carry large packs for their owners. They may also pull sleighs. Just because they work for regular people during the day doesn't mean they can't fly at night.

Where to Look for Reindeer

? Look in places besides on rooftops. Reindeer practice landing in a variety of areas to prepare for those rough landings. Remember not everyone lives in a regular house, so look out for tile roofs, or steep inclines that will help prepare and test their landing skills.

? Reindeer fly in harsh weather as well as on clear nights. Every December 24th the weather is different, so look for reindeer on rainy and foggy nights also.

? If you live in the city, expect the reindeer to fly higher in the sky because the chance of being seen is greater.

? If you live in a rural area the reindeer may travel lower to the ground. To increase your chances of seeing a reindeer in flight go out into an open field. Reindeer often eat lichen and branches, so keep your eyes open for missing branches and bark.

Enticing Reindeer

? Other reindeer snacks include apples, carrots and grass. Leaving these snacks out may increase your chances of a sighting.

? The reindeer named in the song aren't the only ones you can see in flight. Besides Dancer, Dasher, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen and Rudolph, there are many other reindeer capable of flying. The famous reindeer may need a break, so try the names Toby (Toboggan), Mel, Otto, Tinsel, Star, Manny, Holly, Nogg (Eggnog) and Belle.