A day out on the free-range

At the start of August, Lottie and myself were sent out into the mountains to see if we could find the free-ranging females and their calves. Fiona had spied a big herd from the road and thought it would be a good idea to get them to follow us for as long as possible with a bag of food, in preparation for the rutting season where the females will need to be led back into the enclosure. With our lunches packed and a bag of feed each in our rucksacks, Lottie and myself set off for a day searching for reindeer.

Lottie leading Hopscotch and her daughter Kipling, probably the greediest pair of females ever in the herd! The herd is following behind.

At the Ptarmigan restaurant, at the top of the funicular train line, we were rewarded with the sight of a large group of 20 females and two calves. Three females immediately ran over as soon as they caught sight of us removing a feed bag from Lottie’s rucksack. These turned out to be Hopscotch and her yearling Kipling. Hopscotch’s three-year-old son, Kips, is a regular on the handfeed line on hill trips and it was easy to see where he had inherited his greediness from! The third was a little reindeer called Pagan who proceed to half-heartedly shake her antlers on our legs in an effort to receive some food.

After spending lots of time with the twins, I was surprised to see how big the calves were on the free-range. Look at the size of the antlers on this calf!

With Lottie leading and myself following at the back, we managed keep the females as a group and walking for a good half hour around the plateau. We gave up when the herd started to trot off in all directions and no amount of running behind in zigzags would keep them together. We had just made the decision to put the feed out, when Lottie looked behind and discovered another large group of twentyish females had joined us! After putting a long line of food, we counted 43 reindeer in total.

Morven looking beautiful against an amazing view over the Cairngorms.

Once everyone was fed (including ourselves), the reindeer trotted off as one big herd, moving quickly across the mountain which was amazing to watch. Lottie and myself then headed to the summit of Cairn Gorm and around the Northern Corries in the hope of finding another group. Unfortunately, we spent the rest of the day searching for reindeer to no avail. We did however, have the most amazing day walking around the mountains, in shock the whole way that we were getting paid for this! I often have people telling me on hill trips that I have the best job in the world, and after this day out in the mountains, I would find it hard to disagree with them.


Three became separated from the herd but after a few minutes of calling them, they ran straight back over, not wanting to miss out on their lunch. There is still a bit of snow left over in the Cairngorms, even after the summer heat-wave, which we can see in the middle of this photo.
All of the herd following Lottie and her white feedbag. I was walking behind making sure they kept moving forwards.
Hopper has amazing antlers this year!

My first time meeting Fly. Her antlers were incredible with one side towering over the other. Apparently she lost one of her antlers a lot later than the other, causing the missmatching in their size.

Look at the size of Fly’s antlers in comparison to Okapi (who has fairly large antlers for a female)!


Kipling running over to see if I have any food!


Gloriana hasn’t yet moulted her winter coat on her ears so they are still really fluffy!
Running for the feed line.
Brie curious about my camera and Cheer behind looking beautiful.
Lottie and myself couldn’t believe how cute this calf was with his winter coat still on his neck in little clumps.
Suspicious Santana
It’s a tiring life for these two calves…
Lunching with the reindeer.
Lottie looking down towards Loch Avon from the side of Cairn Gorm.
Lottie and the Northern Corries. We didn’t find any reindeer from this point but had the most amazing walk along the ridge of the Corries and back down to the car park.



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