Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Reindeer are named; please welcome Doctor Whooves to the herd

Doctor Whooves is the male closest to the fence on the right.

The calves born this spring at the Fairbanks Experiment Farm have been named. Fans of the Doctor Who (British science-fiction) television program will be delighted to know that Doctor Whooves is among the mix.

Erin Carr, the animal caretaker for the Reindeer Research Program, said she's watched Doctor Who but wouldn't classify herself as a big fan. "We gave that name to No. 1316 because he was the most well-behaved male," she said. "We really liked that name and we liked that deer."

The good "Doctor" is the only celebrity in this year's mix. His herd-mates are:



"We had a lot of just normal people names this time," Carr said. Names unlikely to ever be awarded are frequently submitted: Rudolph, Donner, Blitzen and the like; they are deemed too silly by the RRP staff.

The names are submitted by school children from across the world who nominate monikers on the RRP website. Calves born in the spring are weaned from their mothers in late summer, then their calf ear tags are replaced with adult ear tags, they get vaccinated and receive a name.

"Some names match the personalities and some don't," Carr explained. The RRP staff each get to pick names they like, then go to the pens and attach names to deer. "Most of the time we all agree," she said.

The crew receives hundreds of suggestions each year from points across the globe. The RRP has a herd of 70 reindeer at the Fairbanks Experiment Farm, where the animals are used for nutritional, meat science and range studies.

Beyond the naming, Carr is even more excited about the program's outreach ambassadors-in-training, Henry and Francis.

Erin Carr gives a treat of lichen to Henry and Francis, RRP ambassadors-in-training.
For years RRP had gentle reindeer Elsa, then Rip, to take into classrooms so that children could learn about animal science first hand. Rip passed away two years ago and the program hasn't had any animals suitable for the job since then.

This year when calves were born, two males were set aside to receive special training. Carr hopes that by next spring they will be ready to take on outreach duties. "Henry is the most advanced," she said. "He walks on a lead rope with a halter."

Besides more handling practice, there is one more thing the 6-month-old bulls need before they get to make school visits -- they will be castrated next spring, which will make them gentler and less "bull-like."

"Educational outreach is a big part of the Reindeer Research Program," Carr said. "This is going to help a lot. Teachers still call asking me if Rip can come to their classroom. It will be nice when they call and ask for Henry or Francis."

 Related reading:

Reindeer calves on the way to becoming ambassadors, SNRAS Science and News, June 28, 2013

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