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How we found the bones of four young red deer


What you can see in the picture above is a red deer skeleton that we found on a walk last night. (We've called it Alice). We know it's a young female, but we still have to do a proper look at the bones. There are 157 bone pieces altogether, but some of those are from big bones that are broken, and some of those are tops and bottoms of bones that in older deer are joined together.

We found the bones in the same wood where last week we found the red deer skull with an extra tooth, and another red deer with just one antler. I was on a walk with mummy and daddy, and we walked up where an old wall used to be, and where we hadn't explored before, then dad saw a shinbone on the path, then we looked and I found the rest of the bones in the the middle of some pine trees. They were lying in a ditch, and we had to crawl in the trees to pick them up. The skull isn't in good condition, and the bones will need some cleaning up, but it's good to have an almost perfect skeleton. Here's how the bones looked when we found them:

The night before, on Friday night, Daddy and I had been walking in the same woods. We were hoping to stalk some red deer, but couldn't find any in the clearings where we've seen them before. But on the edge of a clearing we found the skull of a red deer hind (female) and for a second I thought it was a roe deer because it was quite small. Then I realised it was too big to be a roe deer, and only had four top teeth through, so I realised it was a young red. We didn't take the skull, but we did take one of the lower jaw bits, because I'm interested how deer teeth change as they get older. The picture at the left shows me holding that jaw bone. It was a cold evening so I was glad I was wearing my favourite gorilla hat.

Further on in the clearing, we found another skull, this one smashed, and lower jawbones. We'd seen it once before, but we took that one as well because we thought it was about the same age as the other one.

We need to clean up all these bones, but we think these three deer are all about the same age - between nine and fifteen months, maybe. I think they are this age, because when walking in the same wood in April, Daddy and I found a dead red deer which must have only died a few days before. Here's a picture of it from April:

We waited three months until it rotted down to bones. It's skull cleaned up really really well and is now one of my favourite skulls. Because red deer are born in May or June, and I know this one died in April, and was too big to be a baby, I know it must be ten or eleven months old. And because these three deer jaws only have the front four cheek teeth through on each side of the bottom jaw, like the red deer we found in April, then we think all four deer must be about the same age. The skeleton in the top picture is maybe a bit younger still because you can't even see the back two.

A lot of deer die when they are babies, but it seems strange that these four all died close together when they were all about the same age, especially as it wasn't even winter and they should have been quite strong.

Cleaning up this skeleton is going to be hard work. I need to scrub the dirt off the bones, then leave the bones in the acid for about a week to make them white. After that I need to glue some of the bits back together and have a look. But it should be good fun.

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