Why Adopt a Reindeer?

Why Adopt a Reindeer?
People often ask me ‘why do you adopt a reindeer of all things?’ Little do they know I could spend the next 6 hours explaining why; just how lovely they are, relaxing to be with and such gentle creatures to watch. You get free hill trips where you can walk on to the hill and hand feed them, you get certificates and photographs and surprise goodies in your adoption packs every year. You get newsletters twice per year and the adoption money goes straight to supporting the herd, I could go on……but I don’t.

If the truth be known I’ve never adopted a reindeer – they always adopt me, I just pay for the privilege. My first adoptee was Indigo back in 2003. A calm and lovable character who always had her nose in my pocket even when all feed had disappeared from my hands. I fell in love with her at first sight and continued with the adoption until her sad demise. I was lucky enough to be offered one of Indigo’s antlers which my husband, Colin, made a pair of earrings out of for me – I will treasure those forever. After Indigo died I adopted Cheer in 2014, Indigo’s great granddaughter. A very quiet and shy reindeer, not an enthusiastic hand feeder like Indigo but easy to spot, which for me is a distinct advantage! For the past 3 years I have adopted Bumble, as far as I’m concerned one of the best reindeer there has been in the herd.

The mighty Bumble. Favourite reindeer of Andi, Chris and Sharon of course

However, Colin disagrees as his adopted reindeer is the majestic Olympic who adopted Colin at a Lincoln Christmas event in 2017. On this occasion Colin and I just have to agree to disagree.

Olympic

This month I have adopted another impressive character Svalbard. I have spent these two weeks volunteering by hand feeding him and getting to know his lovable if not occasionally grumpy ways with people. He’s an enthusiastic hand feeder but when the food has gone he’s on his way, thank you! Although his antlers aren’t yet up to his normal impressive spread they are growing so fast you could almost sit and watch them grow to maturity.

Sharon

Svalbard, another greedy hand feeder

 

Svalbard with a full set of antlers

Izzy – Becoming a Reindeer Herder

I am currently a student at Salford University in greater Manchester, where I study wildlife conservation and practical conservation. At the university I was part of the climbing club and use to go climbing regularly to the cCairngorm National Park during the summer and winter months. During our time up there I had always wanted to visit the Cairngorm Reindeer Herd, but just never really had the opportunity to go visit the centre and the herd.

Until around two summers ago, me and my mum had been travelling the north east coast of Scotland and were making our way up to Inverness. Once we had reached Aviemore I finally got the chance to visit the reindeer up in the hill enclosure. The first reindeer herders that I met were Dave and Lottie and the first reindeer that I fully remember meeting were Glenshee and Viking.

Who doesn’t love handfeeding?         
Glenshee looking as magnificent as ever.

After visiting I wanted to spend more time with the reindeer and the people who managed the herd, so I applied to be a volunteer. Whilst I was a volunteer I had amazing hands on experience with the reindeer and learnt more about how they can live and thrive in the Cairngorm Mountains. I was lucky enough to spend time with the reindeer twins, as well as with some of the male reindeer during the time the velvet was beginning to strip from their antlers. 

Giving Starsky a bottle

                  

Leading the girls           

After my week volunteering I went on my university placement year, and managed to finish my 9 months of placement earlier than expected, and therefore I could accept a job at the reindeer centre. I am currently working as a reindeer herder for the summer. I have been living and working at the centre now for a couple of months now and I absolutely love it.

Izzy

Up on the ridge
Northern Corries in the background

Dynasties: Tambourine

This week I’d like to talk about Tambourine and her extensive family. Tambourine was born in 2000, in our musical instruments theme. She was a distinctive looking reindeer, slightly on the petite side, with particularly pointy ears. I didn’t know her in her youth, but my memory of her in her latter years was as a rather suspicious lass with plenty of wiles and a furious expression! As a bit of a shier reindeer, she was perhaps not very well known amongst visitors, though she did have an adopter who branded their car with reindeer logos!

Look at those pointy ears!
Tambourine with Hobnob as a calf

Tambourine was a prolific breeder, producing 12 calves over the course of her life, many of which have gone on to be good breeding reindeer themselves. Her wild streak has been passed on to her offspring, and we’ve always known that reindeer from her family will need lots of extra bribery and calm gentle handling to win their trust as calves. That said, her sons Allt, Gnu and Ost all went on to be solid, steady Christmas reindeer, not batting an eyelid at crowds and bright lights. Though they never wanted to be stroked!

Handsome Gnu as a two-year-old with his trademark wide simple antlers
Sweet natured Ost as a three-year-old bull, also sporting a similar style of antlers

Tambourine’s daughters Hobnob, Spy, Rain and Tap have all gone on to become mothers themselves. Hobnob has had three daughters (Swiss, Ocean, and this year’s as-yet-unnamed calf) and a son (Carnethy); and Spy has the same count of three daughters (Morven, Dante, and this year’s calf) and a son (Nok). Rain has reared a son (Koro) and is rearing a daughter this year. And Tap did a great job with her first calf last year, daughter Angua.

Spy with this year’s as-yet-unnamed calf
Daughter Rain as a very pretty yearling – a chip off the old block in appearance and character
Tambourine’s grandson Koro
Tambourine’s granddaughter Morven – what a pretty lass!
Hobnob and her latest calf

Whilst we ran both Gnu and Ost for one season as breeding bulls, we can’t say for definite that either fathered a calf. They then joined our Christmas team instead – a much more peaceful way of life!

Tambourine’s sisters Lorn and Tuppence were also successful mothers, with many descendants between them, and sister Flake attempted motherhood rather less prolifically, but I think I’ll talk about them another time – otherwise I should have titled this blog ‘Dynasties: Talisker’ and focused on their mum!

Tambourine at nearly 14 years of age, and still in good shape

Tambourine lived to a ripe old age, finally passing away out on the mountains at 17 years old. She surpassed the average lifespan of a reindeer by several years, and leaves behind a strong family line which will hopefully continue for many years to come.

Andi