THE SARVONIAN WHITE DEER

APPEARANCE - SPECIAL ABILITIES - TERRITORY
HABITAT/BEHAVIOURDIET - MATING

Of the deer species living wild today, the White Deer is the largest species living in Sarvonia. Males stand at 1.60 peds to the shoulder, while females are much smaller at one ped. The ‘deer forests’ of the elves are not in actual fact ideal habitat for these large creatures, but they have survived magnificently, so well in fact that several elven tribes have to carefully control numbers to prevent large numbers destroying other forest flora and fauna. Sarvonian White Deer are easily distinguished by their size and their much prized white coats.

The Sarvonian White Deer

View picture in full size Image description. The proud White Sarvonian Deer as spotted in the Auturian Woods. Picture drawn by Seeker.

Appearance. During the summer, the Sarvonian White Deer is pure white in colour, sometimes with cream on the underbelly, inner thighs and rump. There may also be some spots of brown on the summer coats, particularly along the spine. In winter, the coat darkens slightly to a blondish shade, though the change of coat colour is not as noticible as in other deer species. However, a perfect summer coat (white and lacking in speckling of the spine) is the most prized hide amongst most deer hunters, thus the season for hunting the creatures is generally at the height of the summer. Both sexes have tails of approximately the same length which are generally held upright and often have one black stripe up its central portion. The coat is longer around the neck in males, and around the feet in both sexes, leading to feathers of fur around the hoof. There is also a visible gland immediately above the hoof of the rear legs. Appearance can also be influenced by age and condition, for example yearlings and calves have a shorter head due to having fewer teeth in their jaw than an adult. Alternatively, when deer condition begins to fail through age their coats will often appear to be ginger in colour, even in the winter months.

Calves are spotted at birth but generally loose these spots after about 2 months. These weights are affected by the spring weather and the mother’s condition during the previous autumn. Amongst adults, the size of mature males stand at 1.60 peds to the shoulder on average, while females are much smaller at 1 ped at the shoulder. There are some unusual colour variations that can mostly be found within herds domestic deer, kept by human nobels, and these include pinkish, cream and albino. The albino can be distinguished from the white by its pink eyes and nose.

White deer, in common with other deer species, have a number of external glands; these include sub-orbital (below the eyes), on the lower back leg, and between the cleaves of the hooves. These organs are used to mark areas, indicate mating availability and possibly allow recognition of individuals. A fluid gait allows the animal to trot very long distances without strain. They are also strong swimmers, most noticeably demonstrated in the successful colonization of the islands of Denilou and Alvang. The gait and stance of deer are also good indicators of age and condition. A long-faced deer with head down is probably past its prime.

Sarvonian White Deer have a life span of over 20 years, however, this is unusual and they rarely live beyond 15 years. The highest period of mortality is in their first year, though vulnerability during this period is dependent upon weather and predation. A huge variety of predators take newborns, including wolves, wolverines and large predatory birds. Generally death after this stage is by hunt of old age.
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Special Abilities. White stags can appear the most majestic of animals as they carry a full set of antlers and a long thick white mane. It is a sight that inspired the elven poet Talovial to utter the lines:

"What is life that
You in beauty personified should pause,
Stare me straight and know our nature
And Our fate.
That You in beauty personified should live
In life: violent, angry and brief.'

-- Talovial: "At the forest's edge", p. 16.

The vigorous ability of the White Deer stags to grow antlers is only matched by the Santhalian Black Hart. Antlers of the White Deer are characteristic as they achieve 12 points with a large mass. This great mass of bone (not horn) has to be grown annually and requires considerable nutrition to sustain it.

Antlers are sprout in the early spring, after the previous years have been removed. The deer speed this process by rubbing against bark, causing considerable damage to the forests, but at moderate numbers, the deer actually aid seeding, and create lesions that allows fungi to grow upon, adding to forest diversity. The older the stag, the earlier these antlers, often explaining why dominant males are elder. Originally this is covered in velvet, which can be gathered as it is shed an is much prized for small items of clothing. At this stage the antlers are very sore, and any conflict will be solved by kicking matches, leading to the characteristic "boxing matches" as stags often fight with their front feet during the spring, but this behaviour is not observed at any other time of year. Females on the other hand box all year round to settle any hierachal debates. Antlers do not develop until the age of two years. Full antlers are not achieved until the age of six. Antlers can ocassionally develop abnormally or fail to develop at all due to injury, illness or nutritional deficiency. A number of specific antler abnormalities have been defined.
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Territory. This type of deer are found in southern parts of Northern Sarvonia and as far south as Marcogg. They are also found in Denilou and the enclave of the Ancythrian Sea, Alvang. In Southern Sarvonia they are only found in forested regions due to hunting and predetation. In much of the northern continent they are also found in more open ground. Herds of White Deer are also kept by wealthy humans, often for sport.
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Habitat/Behaviour. The White Deer have a very specific annual routine, though it is subject to some variation. Their selection of habitat is mostly linked to the availability of food, but other factors such as weather and fly infestation can also influence movement. Whites will retreat to higher ground or deeper woodland during the height of summer to avoid the temperature (in the south) and flies, returning to lower or more open ground when food becomes scarce and the weather inclement.

Deer also live in a very highly defined social structure. Females live in highly hierarchaical herds for the majority of the year, mainly for protection. Males live in far looser herds, the two sexes only come together in late summer. Younger males can often be found around the female herd, as they are often retiscent to leave their mothers. If food is scarce the the two sexes will tolerate the prescence of the other herd. Females often occupy the best feeding grounds, forcing the stags further afield, and possibly adding to earlier stag mortality. Herd vary greatly in size. In late summer, during the mating season, herds are headed by a stag and size is determined by how many does he can defend. For a dominant male this may be more than 20.

Calves usually form tight bonds with their mothers. Family groups are often seen within herds, consisting of a mother, her calf and the calf's elder female relatives. Even stags keep a range that overlaps with that of their mother.

During the mating season stags are heard to issue an impressive roar. This is a series of deep guttural sounds from one breath, which can be repeated many times. The roar can be given as a challenge, an indication of size and stature or to reinforce the winning of a fight. They can give a short bark of warning, but this is normally reserved for lesser stags that pose no real threat. Outside the rut they are generally silent with the exception of an occasional warning bark. Females are silent but may bellow to find their calves or locate their herd if seperated.

In late summer the stags that up to this time of year have been living in large, loose stag groups start to become intolerant of each other. As with most other aspects of a deer’s life cycle, this is governed by the length of the days. The hours of light and dark are very important therefore in determining the White Deer habits. Shortly thereafter, stags take possession of harems of females. Once resident, these stags start defending their harem and herding in any passing females. This mating activity is even more important to the deer than eating, and does take its toll on the condition of stags. Fights between stags can often cause serious or fatal injury the severity of which is related to the percieved threat, that is the larger the stag, the more intense the fight.

Fighting is a major part of the white stag's life. Fighting, as much in the White Deer lifestyle, follows a set sequence. It starts with the stag, whose harem is threatened approaching the intruder. If the intuder is not peturbed, roaring ensues before the deer will lock antlers until one of the competitors is pushed backward.
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Diet. White Deer are generally forest dwellers, but are highly adaptable. Their daily movement pattern will lead them from the lower, more sheltered areas where they spend the nights, back to higher sunny slopes where they spend the day feeding, resting and chewing the cud. These daytime resting areas will normally be good vantage points from which they can easily see approaching danger. This preferred daily and seasonal movement can be severely affected by human disturbance in the form of fencing or excessive disturbance White Deer are grazers by preference, however good grass is not always available in the forest, they may well browse on a wide variety of trees and shrubs, such as including krakenweed and the leaves of the adlemir tree.
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Mating. Such herding during mating is accompanied by other behaviour. White deer Stags are notorious for their scent marking of their teritory using their many scent glands. Females in a stags harem are also scent marked, using scent glands, and long periods of nuzzling and licking.

Mating can only take place once a year, when the female reaches heat, which occurs only for a few days. The female determines the selection of the mating partner, as she will not remain in a harem she does not wish too. Most females conceive at the first mounting.

After a gestation period of some months a calf is usually born in very early spring, and there is normally a very slightly higher population of males. Perhaps to compensate for the higher male mortality rate. The actual birth normally occurs with the hind standing away from the herd. After birth the calf must quickly stand and suckle, as the doe and her calf must return to the rest of the herd as quickly as possible to avoid preditation. There is an almost direct relation between the amount of time it takes a calf to stand and the likelyhood it will survive into adulthood. Calves are ready to eat solids four weeks after birth.
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