The Red deer (Cervus elaphus) is Britain’s largest land mammal and is justifiably known as the ‘Monarch of the Glen’.
The ‘deer forests’ of Scotland are far removed as a habitat from that which they would occupy out of preference, preferring broadleaved woodland, and yet they adapted in a relatively short period of time to the point where they now have to be managed to prevent over-population. Red deer can often be spotted in natural woodland or out on the open moors. In summer, they may head for the windy higher ground to escape the midges but in winter will come back to the valleys in search of food.
Male deer (stags) can be identified by their magnificent antlers. These are discarded in April or May, to be re-grown in July or August ready for the ‘rut’ or mating season, in late September. Newly grown antlers are covered with a layer of downy material and at this stage the stags are said to be ‘in velvet’ and can often be seen rubbing their antlers against trees to rid them of the velvet coating. During the rut, the males become very aggressive in their pursuit of a harem of hinds (female deer). They can often be heard roaring across the glens as they challenge one another for the right to mate. Normally, one stag will back down but occasionally they will lock horns in a trial of strength until one stag submits and goes off in search of an easier conquest. Calves are normally born in the following June and, if they survive the winter weather and predation by foxes and golden eagles, they can live for up to 15 years.