Elsa was born on the Seward Peninsula in 1997 and was among a group of reindeer calves captured in June of that year and shipped to Nenana Alaska. She then became one of the 20 founding members of the University of Alaska, Fairbanks Reindeer Research Program's research production herd housed at the Agriculture and Forestry Experiment Station (AFES). During her first year at the AFES farm she was halter broken and trained to be led on a lead rope. She was an exceptional learner and soon became the Reindeer Research Program's first outreach reindeer and started visiting classrooms in the Fairbanks area to assist in teaching students about reindeer in Alaska.

In addition to her educational duties, as Elsa grew into an adult reindeer, she was also tasked with producing reindeer calves, and she was a good producer, having a total of 10 calves over her 14 year life.