Red Deer

Red deer have been present in Scottish highlands since the Ice Age and therefore are a truly native species.

Adult males (Stags) and females (Hinds) lead separate lives for most of the year even to the extent of occupying different areas of their range and generally interacting only during the rut.

Female groups tend to be led by a dominant hind who takes control when the group is disturbed and moving.

Young hinds tend to remain with their mothers group whilst the young stags move away to group with other stags.

A harsh winter can have significant effect on mortality rates, due to the supply and quality of food on offer and the amount of shelter available. Lactating hinds lose more body condition than hinds without calves. Stags lose a lot of body weight after the rut in Oct/Nov.

Early spring is the period of peak mortality especially for stags even more so if the growth of vegetation is delayed. Conditions are regained from the spring flush of new vegetation growth.

During the summer, unless the deer are aged or in poor health, fat reserves are being built up ready for the winter.

During the winter the stags stop feeding during the rut and rapidly lose condition.


Antlers are cast from mid-March to July. Older and better condition stags cast first.

July to September: Antlers harden and the velvet dies.

August to October: Antlers are clean of velvet.

September: Stags break away from their bachelor groups to find, and claim groups of hinds as the hinds start to come into oestrus.

Late Oct/Nov is the time of the rut and now Stags can be heard bellowing on the hill.

Have a single calf born in May/June only rarely are twins born. Productivity is directly influenced by food and shelter.


Hinds break away from the group to give birth and only rejoin the group when the calf is strong enough to run with the herd.

During the first few days of its life the calf is left alone between suckling bouts.

Calves are normally weaned at four months they may continue to suckle beyond this period but are not dependent on milk.

Calves remain with their mothers as yearlings, learning her home range during this period. Social groups of a hind, her calf, and yearling are common.

Hinds may bark when alarmed.

Patterns of Activity:

Woodland edge is the ideal habitat, however, in Scotland the species has adapted to life on the open hill.

Hinds tend to remain in a limited area of their available range throughout their lives and rarely move further than 5/6 km from their place of birth.

Stags range over much larger areas and may move 30/40km throughout the year.


Both sexes graze and browse a wide range of plants depending on the time of the year and availability.

Feeding tends to occur in bouts at intervals of about three hours, after which deer lie up to ruminate.

Red deer feed mostly at dawn and dusk and graze whilst moving into the wind. Periods of strong winds from one direction may more deer to the furthest extent of their range in the direction from which it is blowing.