Spring is in full swing and that can mean only one thing for nature – a population boom as visitors to Snettisham Farm Park have been finding out.
Around 35 new calves have so far joined the red deer herd at the park since the first arrival two weeks ago.
And another 15 are expected to be born by the end of the calving season next month.
Park manager Trevor Walters said: “We don’t interfere in the process, we leave them alone to themselves.
“The mother is perfectly designed to look after the calf on her own when it’s born. Each newborn calf is looked after solely by its mother, who weans it until they are able to rejoin the rest of the herd.”
The first calf was born on May 23, and the young deer, with its recognisable white spots, joins the herd of more than 50 hinds and two stags.
More than half the pregnant hinds have given birth so far, and with all the calves expected to come, the population of the herd will increase dramatically to just over 100.
However, the number of deer in the herd is kept stable by the farm.
Mr Walters said: “We maintain the population by keeping a static herd of 50 hinds by selling deer to other farms all around the country.”
The two stags of the herd are Rufus and Harry. Rufus is a relatively young male, at only five years old, but he has an impressive set of antlers, and has already asserted his control over the herd, taking over from the 13-year-old Harry.
As the dominant male, every single calf born this season was fathered by Rufus.
At this time of the year the stags’ antlers are just beginning to grow before they become fully formed by September.
Visitors can see all the deer, including the newborn calves, on the park’s Deer Safari ride which runs every day. Riding on a covered trailer pulled by a tractor, the public get the opportunity to see the herd up close and even get the chance to hand-feed them. The park rangers also provide a commentary throughout the tour.
Besides the Deer Safari, Snettisham Farm Park also hosts various other activities, from collecting fresh eggs, to bottle-feeding orphan lambs, pony rides, and meeting a variety of small animals.
The park is part of a real working farm, and has been open to the public since 1986.