To most Covenant students, the words “Rock City” bring up images of strange little gnomes, fascinating rocks, a captivating waterfall, a beautiful view, and probably donuts. Add a new one to the list: fallow deer. Since 2011, fallow deer have abided among the gnomes and tourists at Rock City. This past January, Rock City completed the next phase needed to expand its Fallow Deer Park, a section of land put aside for the population of exotic fallow deer. The new fenced expansion will border the original area, and include more vegetation and space for the herd as it grows.
Most tourists are unaware that Rock City is partnered with the Amicalola Deer Park, which serves rescued animals such as sika and fallow deer. Amicalola, located about two hours southeast of Lookout Mountain, is home to about 150 rescued animals. Amicalola gives visitors a chance to hand-feed a deer, camp, or take a walk and simply enjoy nature. Rock City started giving fallow deer a home eighty years ago, with a small herd of fallows living in a rock exhibit. In 2011, the Deer Park of Rock City came into existence. The new 2014 expansion will give the deer more space and vegetation to live naturally in the environment.
At the moment, Rock City boasts nine fallow deer, and with this expansion of space, the herd is expected to keep growing. Since each of the breeds present in the fallow species are represented in the little herd, Rock City’s deer raising program can expect fawns of all possible fallow colors. Presently, the herd even includes a rare white fallow, which, according to Rock City’s website, occurs in 1 in 10,000 deer. Jeff Raabe, the director of operations for Rock City, remarked on the Rock City website, "The herds' genetics and health will continue to be managed closely to ensure a strong and sustainable long-term population of these special animals." With this new phase completed, the deer herd will hopefully continue to grow while becoming more self-sustained.
While the species is native to Eurasia, fallow deer can survive naturally in habitats like the one Rock City supplies (though these deer are currently supplemented with corn). Although in places such as Pennsylvania the deer are only kept in domesticated, livestock settings, they exist in the wild in other states. Interestingly, a large population of fallow deer lives wild in central Georgia, where natural predators are few. The fallow deer appears to be a hardy species, as it can survive naturally in both the climates of Rhode Island and in Texas. While some fallow deer in the US (namely, the ones in Texas) are popular in gaming reserves, the deer in Rock City need not worry about becoming exotic hunting trophies. With the breeding program mentioned above, Rock City’s fallow deer population is expected only to grow and continue to entertain visitors. And so far, the Deer Park seems to be succeeding in that regard. Recently, Rock City launched a social media campaign to name the newest fallow fawn; the winner of the contest received a free family pass to Rock City.
When visiting our neighbor Rock City, look around for the newly-expanded fallow deer park. It is possible to catch a glimpse of the two fawns (born in 2013), or perhaps the rare white fallow in residence there. The website explains that the deer park is “visible from the wooden deck past Fat Man's Squeeze.” If participating in the sunrise service at Rock City this Day of Prayer, take a donut and wander towards that wooden deck. Look past the gnomes, and sight some fallow deer.