Dyllan Deer Control Group

 

 

Red Deer

 

Aim

 

The aim of this guide is to provide information on
aspects of the ecology and behaviour of Red deer to
aid in the management of this species.

Red deer are a truly native species, present since the Ice Age.

 

Social structure

 

Adult males and females are typically sexually
segregated for most of the year, occupying different
areas of their range and generally interacting only
during the rut.

Group size varies. Female groups tend to be
matriarchal and led by a dominant female. She
becomes obvious as the leader when the group is
disturbed and moving. Generally, young hinds remain
with their mother’s group; young stags disperse to
group with other bachelor males.

 

Body condition changes

 

Winter

 

Rate of loss governed by weather

conditions, food quality and quantity and shelter
availability. Lactating hinds lose more condition
relative to yeld (females without calves) hinds. Stags
are in poor condition after the rut.

 

Spring

 

Early spring is period of peak mortality,
especially stags, particularly if spring flush of
vegetation is delayed. Condition is regained from
spring flush of vegetation.

 

Summer

 

During summer, ridges may provide a breeze to escape from insects. Where flies are not a problem, deer rest up in sunny sheltered areas. red hind in winter coat which has a ‘bleached’ appearance.

 

Hinds

 

Breeding

 

Single calf: Born in May (woodland) and June (open

range). Very exceptionally, twins born.

Productivity: Directly influenced by food and

shelter.

 

Woodland − hinds commonly pregnant after second

rutting season. Generally a calf is produced annually

thereafter.

 

Open range − hinds more commonly pregnant after

third rutting season. Thereafter, hinds may only

produce a calf every second year.

 

Weaning of calves: At 4 months. Calves may

continue to suckle beyond this period but are not

dependent on milk.

 

Calving behaviour: Hinds break away from group

to give birth rejoining only when the calf is strong

enough to run with the herd. During the first few

days, the calf is left alone between suckling bouts.

When strong enough to run at foot, will join the rest

of the herd.

 

Vocalisation: Hinds may bark when alarmed and

moo when looking for their young.

 

Shoulder height: 1-1.2 m.

 

Stags

 

Antler development
Mid Mar - Jul: Antlers cast (older and better
condition stags cast first).
Jul - Sept: Antlers harden and ‘velvet’ dies.
Aug – Oct: Antlers clean of velvet.


Mating

 

Sept: Stags ‘break out’ of bachelour groups to findand claim groups of hinds as the hinds start to comeinto oestrus.
Late Oct: The peak of the ‘rut’ normally occurs
during this time, but may extend into Nov.
Vocalisation: A deep, low bellow or roar plus grunts.
Shoulder height: 1-1.3 m


Calves
Social dependency: Calves remain with their
mother as yearlings, learning her home range duringthis period. Social groups of a hind, her calf, and
yearling are common.



Summer: Unless aged or in poor health, fat reserves
are being accumulated.


Autumn: Stags stop feeding during the rut and
rapidly lose condition.


Patterns of activity  
Habitat and range
Woodland edge provides ideal habitat, however
the species has adapted to life on the open hill
throughout much of Scotland. Woodland residents
are generally larger than those on the open hill due to
access to better quality food and shelter.
‘Hefted’ hinds remain in a limited area of their
available range throughout their lives and rarely move
further than 5 km from their birth place.
Stags range over much larger areas, and may move
up to 40 km throughout the year.
Feeding
Both sexes graze and browse a wide variety of plants
(grasses, heather, shrubs and trees), depending on
the time of year and availability. Hinds, being smaller,
tend to feed on higher quality grasses and herbs,

whereas stags can utilise poorer quality forage in
greater bulk. Feeding tends to occur in bouts at
intervals of about three hours, after which deer ‘lie
up’ to ruminate.


Daily movements


In woodland, red deer are generally crepuscular,
feeding mostly at dawn and dusk. In open-range deer,
diurnal movement patterns may be observed within
home ranges, i.e. groups going from high to low
ground at dusk and returning at dawn. Opportunities
to encounter deer significantly increase during these
times.
Seasonal movements
Sept/Oct: Stags rutting; their location is governed by
the location of the hinds.
Nov - Apr: Stags congregate on lower wintering
grounds. Hefted hinds on open range remain on the
high ground until pushed onto lower ground by poor
weather or food shortage.
May
/Jun: Stags and hinds seek out the first flush of
grass, often showing significant changes in foraging
patterns.
Jul/Aug: Stags are in good condition and need to
range less to feed, due to food availability.
Response to weather
Red deer tend to graze whilst moving into the wind.
Periods of strong wind from one direction may move
deer to the furthest extent of their range in the
direction from which it is blowing.
Response to humans
Deer may learn to recognise and respond to human
behaviour and sounds that they associate with danger.
Responses include:
Increased wariness relating to culling activity;
Grouping into larger herds which are more
difficult to approach undetected. Impact on
habitat can become concentrated in certain
areas;
Deer become increasingly nocturnal.
With this in mind, practitioners should ensure that
the short-term gains in terms of numbers of animals
culled per day does not compromise the efficiency of
longer-term deer control.


Damage
Mar – May: Wher
e they have access, deer are more
likely to ‘maraud’ onto improved grazings.
Aug/Sept: Fraying by males occurs (the main
damage impact of deer in woodland).*

Ensure you are familiar with the annual cycle ofboth males and females to ensure that managementactivities do not compromise animal welfare. For
example be particularly aware of times of the yearwhen: •Females may have calves at foot •Offspring
may be dependent •Non-target animals may be inpoor condition and be affected by disturbance.


Their behavioural strategy therefore is to seek shelter. Where shelter is deprived or not availablethis could create a
welfare issue.
Autumn: Stags stop feeding during the rut and rapidly lose condition.
Patterns of activity
Habitat and range

Woodland edge provides ideal habitat, however
the species has adapted to life on the open hill
throughout much of Scotland. Woodland residents
are generally larger than those on the open hill due to
access to better quality food and shelter.
‘Hefted’ hinds remain in a limited area of their
available range throughout their lives and rarely move
further than 5 km from their birth place.
Stags range over much larger areas, and may move
up to 40 km throughout the year.
Feeding
Both sexes graze and browse a wide variety of plants
(grasses, heather, shrubs and trees), depending on
the time of year and availability. Hinds, being smaller,
tend to feed on higher quality grasses and herbs,
whereas stags can utilise poorer quality forage in
greater bulk. Feeding tends to occur in bouts at
intervals of about three hours, after which deer ‘lie
up’ to ruminate.
Daily movements
In woodland, red deer are generally crepuscular,
feeding mostly at dawn and dusk. In open-range deer,
diurnal movement patterns may be observed within
home ranges, i.e. groups going from high to low
ground at dusk and returning at dawn. Opportunities
to encounter deer significantly increase during these
times.


Seasonal movements


Sept/Oct: Stags rutting; their location is governed by
the location of the hinds.


Nov - Apr: Stags congregate on lower wintering
grounds. Hefted hinds
on open range remain on the
high ground until pushed onto lower ground by poor
weather or food shortage.


May/Jun: Stags and hinds seek out the first flush of
grass, often showing significant changes in foraging
patterns.


Jul/Aug: Stags are in good condition and need to
range less to feed, due to food availability.
Response to weather. Red deer tend to graze whilst moving into the wind.
Periods of strong wind from one direction may move deer to the furthest extent of their range in the direction from which it is blowing.

Response to humans
Deer may learn to recognise and respond to human
behaviour and sounds that they associate with danger.


Responses include:
Increased wariness relating to culling activity;
Grouping into larger herds which are more
difficult to approach undetected. Impact on
habitat can become concentrated in certain
areas;
Deer become increasingly nocturnal.
With this in mind, practitioners should ensure that
the short-term gains in terms of numbers of animals
culled per day does not compromise the efficiency of
longer-term deer control.


Damage


Mar – May: Where they have access, deer are more
likely to ‘maraud’ onto improved grazings.
Aug/Sept: Fraying by males occurs (the main
damage impact of deer in woodland).


Ensure you are familiar with the annual cycle of both males and females to ensure that managementactivities do not compromise animal welfare. For example be particularly aware of times of the year when: 

  • Females may have calves at foot
  • Offspring may be dependent
  • Non-target animals may be inpoor condition and be affected by disturbance.


Their behavioural strategy therefore is to seek shelter. Where shelter is deprived or not availablethis could create a welfare issue.

 

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