Red Deer

Terminology.

Male Red deer are known as Stags.

Females are known as Hinds.

Offspring are known as Calves.

Origins and History.

The Red deer found in Britain are our largest land mammal. They migrated into Britain from Europe over 11000 years ago. As with the Roe and Fallow over hunting and intervention by man with regard to forest habitat had an adverse affect on the Red deer populations. Subsequently the Normans erected deer parks to protect the remaining numbers. Ironically these parks were designed for royal hunting parties, however they did stabilise the populations at that time. During mediaeval times these parks were mostly destroyed and therefore the Red deer populations declined again.

Re - introductions by the Victorians of larger Wapiti bred Reds helped to stabilise the dynamics of the species. A combination of inevitable escapees and natural spread, during the 20th Century, has given us the widespread distribution of Red deer that is known today.

Red deer are now expanding their range and number.

Weight

The males can weigh between 90 - 190 kilos.

The females are lighter at 63 - 120 kilos.

Appearance

Standing between 50- 54" at the shoulder Red are very large in appearance. They are the biggest deer species and Lowland Red stags have been recorded at greater weights than their Highland counterparts. This is due to the abundance of food and lack of management in the lowlands. In the summer their coat is a reddish brown colour. In the winter the coat dulls to a dark brown - grey. The Stag produces large branched out antlers, which are broader than those of the other male deer species.

Habitat

Red are lovers of mature, semi- mature woodland, especially when interspersed by farmland. They are incredibly adaptable and can roam over vast ranges. Red are capable of living in all areas from lowland woods to the open hill and moors.

Behaviour

Red behave in various manners depending on the level of disturbance. In areas where they are particularly targeted they can become nocturnal, however, the usual peak time for movement is at dawn and dusk, periods in between are spent laying up in dense cover to allow them to ruminate.

It is normal to see solitary Red stags, however hinds usually group together each with their calf at foot. On open ground larger single sex groups can be seen regularly, these groups only mix during the rut. Some Scottish highland populations remain in these groups for most of the year.

Breeding

The stag will rut from the end of September through to November. The stag will travel back to the hind's home range in order to defend his access to the herd of Hinds he has accumulated. This behaviour may be considered unusual as Red are not considered to be territorial. Behaviour patterns escalate during the rut and can vary from the parallel walking and groaning of two Stags to fighting.

Injuries at this time are commonplace although fighting occurs only when other methods of assessing dominance have failed. Stags will wallow in shallow scrapes filled with water mud and their own urine, this behaviour is intended to enhance their presence amongst the Hinds and deter any would be contender from an attempt to fight.

Gestation lasts 8 months and one calf is born per pregnancy, between mid May and mid July. However this can differ with hinds that live on the hill, they can sometimes only give birth once in every 2 –3 years. In addition puberty may be delayed in hill hinds until they are 3 years old, whereas woodland hinds reach puberty in their second year. Only stags that are a minimum age of 5 years achieve mating despite being sexually mature at 18months.

Vocalisation

Red stags roar and grunt during the breeding season. Hinds tend to bark when alarmed and moo when searching for their offspring. Calves emit a high-pitched squeal when alarmed and may bleat to the hind.

*These are not statutory close seasons for Chinese water deer & muntjac, but are recommended close seasons.