The Rut of the Reds (Cervus elaphus)

Red deer are our largest mammal in the UK.  Stags weigh anything from 90 – 190kg with females 63 – 120kg. The number of branches on antlers increases with age. Up to 16 points in native animals – who can live typically 18 years.

DSED1606The breeding season, or rut, occurs from the end of September through to November.  Stags return to the hinds home range and compete for access to hinds by engaging in elaborate displays of dominance, including roaring, parallel walks and fighting.  Serious injury and death can result but fighting only occurs between stags of similar size that can not assess dominance by any of the other means.  The dominant stag then ensures exclusive mating with the hinds.

DSED6903Only stags over 5 years old tend to achieve mating despite being sexually mature much earlier (before their 2nd birthday in productive woodland populations).  In woodland populations hinds over a year old give birth to a single calf after an 8 month gestation, between mid-May to mid-July each year.

DSED1996Injuries do happen, and sometimes even death.

Red deer are active throughout the 24 hour period but make more use of open spaces during the hours of darkness in populations experiencing frequent disturbance . Peak times of activity are at dawn and dusk.

DSED7496ARed deer are widespread throughout the UK, and can be found in many parks and in the wild.  Bradgate Park in Leicestershire, Lyme Park in Cheshire, Tatton Park, Dunham Massey, and the Lake District.   Also common in East Anglia, and the South West of England.  In Scotland in the Scottish Highlands, Dumfriesshire.

 

The 2012 Rut

Every year I try to get pictures of the stag rut – and every year, I come back with super images of deer, but not of them fighting.  I dream of seeing two huge stags scrapping away, preferably on the brow of a hill, with a dramatic sunset going on behind them; and one of these years I’m going to get my dream shot.

In the meantime, I’m plodding all over the place to get the best I can, and this week, although I didn’t get them fighting, I did get shots of Fallow Deer Calf born this summer – looking like Bambi…

In Britain, the Red deer rut peaks in October, though does usually kick off in September. The male Red deer are fighting for supremacy, to allow them to control and mate with the largest harem. The best time to see the rut is, as with most wildlife spectacles, early morning and evening, but don’t get too close as the males can be very aggressive at this time of year.

The fallow deer rut peaks a week or two later than the Red deer, but is also definitely worth a watch. Fallow deer can be found in most counties in England and Wales, and there are large populations in pockets spread across Scotland. Young fallow start breeding when they are about 18 months old. The mating season, or rut, starts in late September and peaks in mid October. Usually, the doe gives birth to a single fawn between late May – mid June. The fawn is weaned by October.