Bunny, a Reindeer at Brookfield Zoo, gave birth to a fawn on April 2 after a 7½-month gestation. Within just a few minutes of the birth, the fawn was up and walking.
The fawn, Bunny’s second, weighed just over 12 pounds at birth but is expected to double her weight in just two weeks, thanks to the richness of her mother’s milk. She will soon graze on solid food but will continue to nurse from Bunny for about six months.
Reindeer fawns are born with dark fur that absorbs radiant heat from the sun, which is important in the chilly northern regions where Reindeer live. At about two to three months, fawns begin to shed their dark fur as lighter-colored fur grows in. At about one month of age, little antler buds begin to develop, followed by short spikes within the first year.
Reindeer differ from other Deer species because their noses are covered with fur and both sexes have antlers. The antlers are made of solid living bone and no two sets are alike. Antlers grow out of small bony platforms called pedicles and are covered with velvet, a soft tissue that supplies necessary nutrients. Males shed their antlers in November and December and females in January or February. Both genders begin growing a new set of antlers in early spring.
Reindeer are found in arctic tundra and woodland edges in northern regions, including Scandinavia, Greenland, Canada, Alaska, and Russia and are well-adapted to cold climates. Their coats have hollow hairs that act as insulation by trapping in body heat. Two broad-hoofed toes help support Reindeer on snowy or swampy ground. Fatty tissue keeps the feet flexible in subzero weather. The hooves have sharp edges to prevent slipping on ice. In the summer, the edges of the hooves wear down exposing a flexible pad that gives support on spongy ground.
In North America, Reindeer are known as Caribou.
Reindeer are numerous and have a large range, but some subspecies are considered under threat. Overall, Reindeer are classified as Vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List.