The Red Deer
The antlered red deer is an awesome sight. The stag uses his antlers as a weapon when fighting other males for access to females during the mating season each fall. Learn more.
The antlered red deer is an awesome sight. The stag uses his antlers as a weapon when fighting other males for access to females during the mating season each fall. In summer, the coats of these attractive and impressive animals are a bright, chestnut brown. In the fall, the deer grow waterproof guard hairs, which turn their coats much darker. Wild herds are found in forests and parkland throughout their range.
Forests are the red deer’s natural habitat. Where the forest has been cleared, the deer move onto open land. Some deer live on open land year round, others retreat to wooded glens in the worst winter weather. Red deer are primarily grazing animals. They feed on grass by cutting it between their sharp lower incisor teeth and their hard upper gums. They also have strong teeth in their cheeks that enable them to eat twigs in the winter, when grass is scarce.
The autumn mating season, called the rut, is the time when the dominant stags challenge and fight one another for access to the females. Several of the successful stags, corner a group of 30-40 females, called hinds, and will mate with each sexually mature member as she comes into season. Younger stags are excluded from breeding by the older, more aggressive males. At the end of the rut, when the stags are exhausted , the younger stags may mate with any of the hinds who are late coming into season. The stags leave the females when the rut is over, forming bachelor herds for the rest of the year. The calves are born after a gestation period of eight and a half months. They are able to stand unsteadily at 20 minutes old, and are able to take milk 10 minutes later. A calf will stay with its mother until she gives birth again. At this time, she drives it away so that it will not compete with the new calf.
Deer hunting is a popular, though controversial, sport. But the number of deer must be controlled each year, to prevent the herds from exhausting their food supply. Hunting, therefore, is seen as a necessary population control. Some species of deer are bred like cattle, but red deer are not suitable to be raised on ranches because they become dangerous during the rut. The red deer are common and increasing, culling in many places, and protected both as game and as ornamental animals.