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Baby deer and a gruesome find


Baby deer are born in May, usually towards the end of the month. It's great to see baby deer, because they are small, cute and have a lovely spotted coat. When baby roe deer are born their mums hide them in bracken or long grass for a few weeks to keep them safe. Once when I was walking in woods near the Roman Fort in my village, two baby roe deer ran away ! It's important not to chase them or pick them up because if their mum smells humans, she might not go back to them.

Baby roe deer live with their mums until they are almost a year old when their mum and their dad chase them away before the new babies are born. These deer then have to try to find a place to live, and so lots of them end up crossing new roads and causing accidents. That's why there are lots of warnings on the roads in Scotland about them, like this one near my house, or stories in the news like this one. (I wrote a blog post last year about why so many deer get hit by cars).

Red deer are a bit different, but they have their babies at this time too. Here's a baby red deer with its mum that we saw at the end of May last year in a wood called Titus Well:

About the same time, dad saw this baby red deer in the same wood. It was sucking milk from its mum:

Two weeks ago Dad and I were walking in the same wood, about a mile from where we saw the baby deer last year. We found the skeleton of an adult red deer hind.

I didn't think much of it because I find loads of skeletons like that, but dad said it worth having a proper look. I thought it had died maybe a year ago, but dad thought it was maybe just six months ago, during the cold winter. So we took off our packs and started to have a look at the bones.

It didn't seem that strange at first, until dad spotted a strange bone in the middle of the red deer's pelvis:

It was a deer metatarsal, which on deer is the lower back leg. It was much too small to be from the adult. Dad felt around further and we found about 100 other bones like it. It was from a baby deer that had died inside its mum, or it and its mum died while it was being given birth to, which was really sad.

It was quite gruesome because you had to pick up earth in your hands and feel through it to find bits of bone. There were absolutely thousands of bug cases from the insects which had eaten the bodies. I though that was quite scary, even though the beetles had gone.

One of the leg bones still had fur on it. I think that means the baby was about ready to be born. That means they must have died in April or May, and that I was right that it had died a year ago.

There were 101 bits of bones that we found from the baby deer. There isn't a skull because in babies, the skull plates aren't fused together yet, so the skull was all in little bits. But I found the big bits of the skull, and all the teeth.

I cleaned the bones using hot water and biological washing powder, and changing the water lots for about a week. After they were washed they looked like this:

Next week I'm going to write more about this skeleton, which I've called Wilma. We also took the skull of the mummy deer. But this is what the skull looked like when I put it back together. It was a baby female.

UPDATE: In August I wrote about this year's red and roe deer babies. You can read it here.

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