*Sorry I’ve been M.I.A.! I wrote this post a few months ago while traveling and it has been sitting as a draft waiting for pictures to be added!
As I’m sitting on my bus back to Inverness, I’m reflecting on what truly makes me happy. One thing (or things) is animals. I ditched a steam engine ride through the mountains today to go pet reindeer and see the Highland Cows. I wasn’t very excited about the train ride, even though it included high tea. The animal adventures though, I was so excited for them. I didn’t even care that I couldn’t refund the steam engine ticket. How often do I get to hand feed reindeer? Definitely not in Kansas!
The Cairngorm Reindeer Center is located right outside of Aviemore, Scotland. The reindeer were re-introduced to Scotland in 1952 after they died out many years ago. The herd I saw today are the only reindeer that live in their natural habitat (not in zoos) in Britain. The herd roams freely on the mountains for much of the year, living a natural lifestyle in the sub-Arctic habitat of the Cairngorms.
Today, we hiked up to see approximately 30 reindeer in their natural habitat. They were above the tree line but below the snow, so it was cold! Many of the reindeer are pregnant and should be birthing any time in the next couple of months. We did get to see one Mom and her three day old calf! The reindeer are very friendly and are harness trained from a young age. They have a long standing connection with humans and will come up and eat right out of your hands. This facility uses them for breeding and wildlife purposes only. They do not use them for meat and they do not use their coats. Their antlers fall off yearly so these are used to make various things and are also used as decoration.
The average reindeer at the centre lives til 12 or 15 years of age. When they die they are buried as you would a pet. All of the reindeer have names and can be identified by the staff in various ways, such as by their coats, antlers, or personalities. All of the reindeer are available for adoption! Today I adopted Ochil! She is a sweet two year old reindeer who is pregnant with her first calf. Unlike my lamb adoption, for this adoption I WILL get updates on her twice a year with pictures! Money for the adoption goes to support the Cairngorm herd.
UPDATE: Ochil had a baby girl on May 6th!