Reindeer Baby Boris

Posted at 11:10 am October 21, 2010 by Kim Weibel

Little Boris

“What is that?” keeper Pamela Weber wondered as she surveyed the reindeer exhibit at the San Diego Zoo. In the corner of the exhibit was a furry black bundle, completely unexpected. Did a wild raccoon or opossum somehow make its way into the enclosure? Upon closer inspection, Pamela realized it was, of all things, a baby reindeer!

Reindeer are found in arctic and subarctic regions of Eurasia and North America and are well adapted to life on the tundra. Calves are usually born between May and June and can stand and walk minutes afterward. They grow quickly on their mother’s rich milk so that they can keep up with the herd, which can be as large as 10,000 animals.

The Zoo’s herd of reindeer grew when three female reindeer arrived in April 2010. What we didn’t know was that secretly smuggled in with one of them was a tiny stowaway. Surprise! One of the females was pregnant. Little Boris was welcomed into the world early on the morning of September 18, 2010. His young mother was very attentive and encouraged him to get up to nurse, but in spite of his best efforts, his legs were not strong enough to let him stand. It was obvious that Boris needed medical care and nutritional support. Keepers carefully packed him up and brought him to the Zoo hospital, where he was quickly attended to.

Pamela feeds Boris some rich formula.

Nursery keepers began offering him bottles. He was nursing and doing well, but was not gaining weight as fast as he should have. After consulting with the Zoo’s veterinarians and nutritionists, we adjusted his formula by increasing the fat and calories. Reindeer live in a very cold, harsh environment, so it makes sense that we would need to feed a milk formula that was higher in calories and fat than one fed to a hoofed baby from a warmer climate. In fact, reindeer milk has four to five times the amount of fat found in cow or goat’s milk. Thankfully, the new formula worked well, and five days after hospital admission little Boris was medically cleared and ready to return to the herd.

Kim Weibel is a senior keeper at the San Diego Zoo. Check back soon for Kim’s next post about Boris.

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21 Responses to “Reindeer Baby Boris”

  1. Deborah M. Brewer says:

    Thank you for sharing that story, really great work you all do at the San Diego Zoo. Look forward to seeing Little Boris some time soon…

  2. Diane K says:

    Welcome Boris! Hope to see some updated pictures soon. 🙂

  3. Diane Ahern says:

    SOOOOOOOO cute! Godd job keepers taking care of your “surprise” bundle and glad to hear he is back with his herd.

  4. Michelle from Buffalo, NY says:

    Oh my goodness what a cutie!!! Keep growing big and strong sweet baby!

  5. Mae was from NJ says:

    What a wonderful surprise – an unexpected addition to the family. He is such a cutie – all legs and big head. I am glad that Boris did well with the new formula.

    After he returned to the herd, did his mother nurse him or have you continued to give him a bottle feeding?

    Moderator’s note: Check back soon for the next “chapter” in Boris’ story

  6. Joan says:

    So sweet – I love these happy ending stories that re-unite Mom and baby. Sometimes we need a little help from our friends!

  7. Dianna from Ohio says:

    How cute is he? Was he named after the cartoon character “Boris” from the Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoon? 🙂 Can’t wait to read how he’s doing..

    Which reminds me about the baby camel and the baby giraffe.. Majagi (?) Everything still good with those two little ones?

    Moderator’s note: I’ll see if their keepers can provide some updates on the little cuties.

  8. emilee says:

    i would like to see it in real life it is so cute i love it

  9. Debi says:

    How lovely! What a wonderful surprise and glad to hear he is doing well. He is adorable!!

  10. kimmi says:

    What a little cutie. The name is great I was thinking it was picked because he was born in Oct. Happy Halloween. For the great Boris Karloff

  11. Susan(UK) says:

    Boris is absolutely gorgeous. Can I have him, please??

    Moderator’s note: I agree. I was smitten when I saw his photos!

  12. sue Martz says:

    oh my goodness, how cute!! More pictures please or a video?? He’s adorable!

  13. kim weibel says:

    Hello Everyone,

    I’m so gald to know that you are keeping an eye on Boris reindeer’s progress. He is growing quickly and doing very well.

    7. Dianna,
    The name Boris was given to our little reindeer by his keepers. It is a good stong Siberian name that fit his determined personality. Tuya, the baby camel, is weaned and is enjoying life on exhibit with her father “Mongo” and her aunt “Mouse.” The baby giraffe who was raised by her mother is growing taller every day and looks very confident nibbling browse with the herd.

    5. Mae,
    Boris’s mother did not show interest in nursing him when he returned to the exhibit, so we are still offering bottles daily. He meets us with great gusto at feeding times and drains his bottles quickly. He is growing into a sturdy little reindeer. More photos are coming soon! 🙂

  14. Margaret says:

    Thanks for the news about baby Boris. Hopefully the next chapter tells of his successful reunion with his mother and the herd.

  15. Roxanne says:

    Oh, what a little darling!!! Congratulations to the Keepers and the momma!!

  16. cindy in KC says:

    Oh!! What a precious face! Love the name too! 🙂

  17. ZooDoc says:

    I’m with Deborah B. Little Boris is adorable!!!

  18. Diane in Victoria says:

    Great reindeer name!

  19. Mike says:

    Interesting! Congratulations with Boris. I also hope that everyone has a great weekend and a happy Halloween! P.S. Now all you need is a little female reindeer named Natasha! LOL

  20. Kathi says:

    Is this the first reindeer born at the Zoo? Why didn’t the keepers realize the mother was expecting? Don’t they grow big bellies?

  21. Katie says:

    are these the deer you bought from the reindeer farm in Hamburg, NY? That farm always has such an assortment at the Erie County fair.

    Kim responds: Yes, our reindeer herd did come from a ranch in Hamburg, New York. After their 30-day quarantine at the Zoo hospital, they settled into their reindeer exhibit at Polar Bear plunge with ease and seem to be very comfortable there.