Keepers of the Highland’s famous reindeer herd are calling on dog owners to “think” and “take responsibility” after one of their young reindeers suffered a “deep bite wound”.
A frantic search had been underway by officials at the Cairngorm Reindeer Herd in the opening weeks of the new year to find an eight-month-old reindeer calf that went missing.
The calf, named Fez, who was part of the reserve’s free-ranging herd, went missing on January 4 and despite extensive searches of the Cairngorms, they were unable to locate her.
However nearly two weeks on, the injured calf has found its way back home.
Keepers were shocked by the severity of her injuries, ranging from a deep bite wound to her neck to fur being ripped out from multiple areas on her haunches.
Officials say it’s “far from certain” whether the young calf will survive the ordeal.
In a statement posted on their social media page, the team say they believe her injuries arose following a vicious dog attack.
‘It is far from a certainty that she will recover’
They wrote: “This is Fez, one of our eight-month-old calves. On January 4th she went missing from our free-ranging herd, and despite searching extensively we were unable to find her.
“Yesterday, nearly two weeks later, she managed to find her own way back to the herd. She has a deep bite wound on her neck, inflicted by a dog, multiple areas on her haunches where the fur has been ripped out, and must have been pursued for a long distance to push her so far away that it took this long for her to return. It is far from a certainty that she will recover.
“It’s not the dog’s fault – it was following its natural instincts. But it IS the fault of the person who brought that dog into the wild, natural habitat of the Cairngorm mountains and didn’t then keep it under control.”
Guardian’s of the Glenmore-based company said such attacks have become almost a daily occurrence for the herd roaming the Cairngorms.
They said dog attacks can have catastrophic effects on the animals, causing severe injury or even death.
They added: “From what we see and hear, we suspect our free-ranging herd gets chased by a dog virtually every day of their lives. Usually they are lucky and outpace the dog, though this still puts them under immense stress as they are being pursued by a predator. But sometimes, like Fez, they are less lucky and are bitten (sometimes fatally), injure themselves trying to get away, or are split from their mother when they are too young to survive alone.
“In 2020, one of our beautiful, gentle females broke her leg fleeing a dog and had to be euthanised, leaving her three-month-old calf orphaned.”
Appeal for dog owners to be responsible
As keepers work around the clock to nurse Fez back to health, they are calling on dog walkers to abide by Scotland’s outdoor access code to help preserve the lifespan of these animals.
The Scottish outdoor access code stipulates that people walking their dogs have right to access as long as they keep their pets under control.
They posted: “We want everyone to enjoy the countryside, including dogs, but too often this seems to be at the expense of our reindeer, plus of course all the wildlife – mountain hares, roe deer, ground nesting birds… Your dog should always be where you can see it, and unless you can guarantee it will listen to you and come back if a hare erupts under its nose, then it should be on a lead.
“You may feel that your dog means no harm and just ‘wants to play’ but for the quarry the result is fear, pain and sometimes death. Please think, and take responsibility when out in the countryside.”