There are a number of different types of red deer. In Britain, it is the biggest land mammal, and can be found in both wooded and open countryside.
Red deer are one of the most widespread of all deer species. As with species that are spread across the world, the common names used can be confusing. In North America the species is known as elk, while populations of red deer living in the far north of Canada are also known as wapiti, though many biologists argue that wapiti are, in fact, a separate species from red deer. Red deer prefer woodlands, while wapiti are more common in open country. Nevertheless, the two groups of deer very closely resemble each other in most other ways. Red deer live in groups throughout the year, although males form separate ‘bachelor’ herds that are more fluid in structure, with older individuals in particular becoming more solitary.
Red deer only have red coats in summer. In winter, they grow longer and darker hairs.
Only male red deer have antlers, which reach up to 1.7 m (5.5 ft) across, and a dark shaggy mane. Adult males use their antlers during the rut, which takes place in autumn. The fighting establishes which males will control the harems of females. Mature stags battle each other at the beginning of the rutting period, as they seek to establish harems of hinds. They bellow loudly to intimidate would-be rivals, but if this fails fighting is likely to break out. The stags clash with their antlers, sometimes with fatal consequences. Antlers fall off in winter and re-grow in time for the next year’s conquests.
Distribution: Ranges across Europe and Asia and is also present in North America. It is the only deer resident in North Africa, where it is confined to the Atlas Mountains.
Habitat: Open deciduous woodland, mountains, plains, moorland.
Food: Herbivorous, grazing on grass, but may also browse on shrubs, twigs and bark.
Weight: 100 – 350 kg (220 – 772 lb).
Length: 177 – 280 cm (70 – 110 in), including tail; up to 120 cm (47 in) tall.
Maturity: Around 1.5 – 2 years.
Breeding: 1 fawn born in autumn, rarely 2.
Gestation Period: About 220-240 days; weaning occurs 6-8 months later.
Life span: Up to 12 years in the wild and 20 in captivity.
There may be up to 20 points, or ‘tines’, on the antlers of a mature stag.
The distinctive red colour of the coat is only evident during spring and summer. In the autumn it is replaced by brownish-grey fur.
Large and black, the eyes are located high up on the head to give good visibility.
The young Red Deer is able to walk a few minutes after birth.
After the breeding season, or ‘rut’, at the start of the year the stag will lose its antlers. A new set grows almost immediately.