The red deer is the UK's largest deer species and adult males - the stags - are easily recognisable by their impressively large antlers. The largest herds are found in the Highlands and islands, although large numbers can be also found in the Galloway hills, the Outer Hebrides and in Highland Perthshire.
By August, the stags are already getting edgy in each other’s company and the last of the velvet falls from their antlers. As testosterone levels surge, their necks thicken and they grow a mane. In September, the stags will begin gathering their harems of hinds for mating, and establish a rutting stand, marked with scent. When a rival approaches, the stags will roar and walk in parallel, sizing each other up. If no one backs down, they will lock antlers, risking serious injury.
At this time of year stags compete with each other for the chance to breed with the females, roaring to intimidate rivals. Red deer are an iconic part of the Highlands
Red deer are Scotland’s largest surviving native wild land mammal. They have a body size a little smaller than a domestic donkey. Males are called stags and have antlers up to a metre long. These branch-like horns drop off in the spring and are grown again in the summer ready for the autumn rut, or breeding season. Stags live in small wandering groups, except during the rut when they become solitary and fight other stags for the control of a hind herd.
Females are called hinds and they live in herds led by matriarchs. Each hind herd spends their whole lives in one area and knows it very well. The hinds give birth to single calves which have white spots, during May and June. The best time to see stags is during the autumn rut and they are more active in cold weather and rain, wallowing in mud, roaring and fighting other stags.
Stags and hinds live in separate herds for much of the year but come together rather vocally in late September or early October at the start of the breeding season, or rut. Hinds (females) are only fertile for a day or less each year so the competition to mate is incredibly high. During the rut, younger newcomers will challenge the current dominant stag for the attention of the herd hinds (females) with elaborate and noisy clashes of antlers and 'roaring' which can be heard quite from some distance. The effort involved in the head-to-head battles means that over the course of the rut, stags may lose as much as 20% of their body weight as they wrestle for control of their harem. The ultimate victor will mate with as many females as possible, usually up to 20, with calves being born the following June.
If are you are planning to view this amazing spectacle, please remember to give the animals space and respect. Disturbing deer during the rutting season can be dangerous and also affect the behaviour of the deer.
If you are planning a holiday here in central Scotland over the next few weeks you will almost certainly here the haunting roars of the stags as they gather up their females. The Loch Earn area is witnessing this at the moment and it will continue for a few more weeks.
Why not think about a holiday in one of Cooper Cottages self-catering holiday cottages over the next few weeks and witness this event for yourselves.