Mt Nicholas Station is home to 30,000 merino sheep (a little bit of each of these is spun into wool and turned into Icebreakers). Yet, although Mt Nicholas Lodge managers, Bruce Collins and Adrienne McNatty, occasionally raise sheep as household pets, there’s nothing sheep-like about their youngest companion. ‘Buck’, as his name suggests, is a baby Fallow Deer.
Buck was a gift from one of the station’s shepherds. After Bruce remarked one night that he’d love a pet deer, the shepherd took his wishes to heart, appearing on Bruce’s doorstep the next morning with a wild baby deer nestled in his backpack.
Bruce says he felt a “sense of excitement and uncertainty” about the unexpected delivery. He and Adrienne had hand-raised deer before; they knew it was a big commitment. “It can be a bit tricky for the first few weeks,” Bruce says.
The biggest problem was that they didn’t have any milk powder, and were due to travel to Invercargill the next day. The solution? “Buck took a two-day road trip with us,” says Bruce.
Buck was just one day old back then. Five months later, he’s still enjoying his morning bottle feeds of special milk formula and has made himself at home with Bruce and Adrienne. He’s as friendly and as much loved as a pet dog, much to the jealousy of Jackson (their pet Schnauzer).
Buck won’t be a pet forever, though. Because he’s male and could get aggressive during mating season, when he’s around a year old, he’ll be put into a large high fenced area (about 900 acres) to mix with other wild deer.
“Where he’s going, we’ll hopefully still be able to see him,” says Bruce. “But we’ll miss him. Buck’s very affectionate and fun to have around.”