Don’t be fooled by his name. Bean may sound cute and little but the new male caribou is a strong protector. Bean joined the two resident females, Rosie and Kyllikki (Kylie), in mid-September. Even though he was 1 year old at the time, he took his job seriously. That could be due to the timing since he was in rut during their introductions. Rut not only means breeding attempts but intense behavior. “Their hormones rage all through rut. He’s looking for other males that might steal his females, and right now he sees us as a challenger,” says North America area supervisor Dawn Fleuchaus. Bean is being vigilant with his protection duties and is a little overly enthusiastic. “Frequently when he sees us he will vocalize and charge at us. So we’re not going into the pens at all with him,” Fleuchaus explains.
Bean is a little smaller than Rosie and Kylie, but he’s expected to reach full mature size in about a year. It will take
another five years for his antlers to reach their full potential size and shape. In the spring when Bean drops his antlers, he is expected to return to a mellow animal. And if he drops his antlers before the females, the roles could be reversed for a short time, and the females would be the dominant ones. But, that will change again once his antlers grow back.
It took years for the Milwaukee County Zoo to find a caribou to join the group. Few zoos house the species, and the ones that do often have difficulty transferring them. “Because of the deer population in our state, there are a lot of rules and testing that has to be done to move them across state lines. Like CWD (Chronic Wasting Disease) and other things that can affect our whitetail population can also affect the caribou,” says Fleuchaus. Now that Bean is here and seems to be getting along with the females, there is a chance he and Kylie could breed and form a bigger herd naturally.