Red deer fact file
© Image copyright Richard Ford www.digitalwildlife.co.uk. Reproduced with kind permission.
- Common name - red deer.
- Scientific name - cervus elaphus.
- Size - Stags (males) can weigh up to 190kg with a shoulder height of up to 130cm. Hinds (females) typically weigh between 70 - 120kg and stand at around 100cm at the shoulder.
- Identification tips - a hefty looking animal, particularly stags, red deer are fairly easy to identify because of their mostly-uniform colour, a dark reddy-brown during the summer that turns to a greyish-brown in the winter. The underbelly is paler in both seasons. Rarely is an adult red deer seen with spots and if spots are present they are few in number.
The most distinguishing feature for the stags are the antlers which are long and branched in mature adults. The longer branches nearly always sweep backwards and are fronted by a number of much shorter ones.
The hinds have a paler throat and face than the bucks, particularly in summer.
- Preferred habitat - red deer favour open heathlands but are equally at home in wooded areas for both food and cover.
- Diet - primarily grazers, red deer eat a large quantity of heather, grass and other ground-hugging plants found on the open heathlands. While in woodland they will eat the fresher shoots of bushes and trees if ground food is limited.
- Breeding - healthy hinds can breed by the age of 18 months and give birth to a single calf between the months of May and June, following the mid September to late October mating season, or Rut.
- Other points - less common in the New Forest than fallow deer, the red deer are limited to certain areas of the Forest; the open heathlands around Burley are a favourite spot, as is Ober Heath near Brockenhurst. Red deer are most active at dusk and dawn.
During the Rut the stags can be heard making a very distinctive and throaty roaring noise, but for most of the year are not very vocal. Fights between stags during the rut can be fierce and sometimes fatal.