The Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal celebrated the birth of an endangered deer this fall, but not everyone in the herd is fawning over her.
The unnamed Eld’s deer fawn was born on October 26 but Thursday was her first media appearance. Keepers says baby and mom are doing well, but even at two months old the fawn is being kept from the rest of the 30-animal herd to keep her safe.
Supervisory biologist of ungulates at the Institute, Delores Reed, says the deer normally do not live in groups of more than three or four deer and their herd at the Institute is the largest in North America.
“She won’t actually join the herd until she’s about six months old,” Reed said. “That way she’ll have a little bit of size on her, because there is a definite hierarchy in the herd and we don’t want to see her get hurt.”
The herd hierarchy isn’t the only thing keepers have to look out for when it comes to the Eld’s deer.
“Eld’s deer are very fractious. They’re a very high strung species. They’re easily spooked, easily self-destruct,” Reed said. “Their natural instinct when something scares them is to run. And if they can see through the fences like they can here,” gesturing at the chain-link fence surrounding the barn “their first instinct is to run into the fence and they’ll end up breaking their necks.”
The deer are normally found in Southeast Asian countries like Burma, Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand. Due to over-hunting and habitat loss, the deer are rare in the wild.
Even within captivity, populations are small, with just 34 Eld’s deer living in North America outside of the Institute. Keepers are hoping that the breeding program will allow for eventual reintroduction of the species into the wild.