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Red deer

The red deer is Britain's largest land mammal. They are most numerous in Scotland, but isolated populations occur from the Lake District to Cornwall, with a few small herds in Wales. Venison from red deer in Forestry Commission woods is very popular with consumers in Britain. Venison from red deer has less cholesterol and fat than other red meat, and deer living in the woods do not have any artificial feeding.

Name

Red deer (Cervus elaphus)

Lifestyle

Habitat

Red deer originally lived on the woodland edge, but the large scale reduction in tree cover in Britain over the centuries has forced them to adapt to life on the open hill.

Breeding

Woodland red deer hinds (females) can breed at 16 months old. Smaller hill deer may not reach sexual maturity until they are 2 - 3 years old. The mating season, known as the rut, begins in mid September and continues to late October. Hinds normally give birth to single calves from late May to June. Twins are sometimes born, but they are extremely rare.

Diet

Red deer are herbivores and graze a wide variety of plants from grasses and heather to shrubs and trees.

Threats

Natural predators, such as bears, lynx and wolves, are now extinct in Britain. Eagles and foxes occasionally prey on very young calves. When numbers of red deer become too great for their habitat to support them, they can have a detrimental impact on plant species diversity and can cause damage to agriculture and forestry. They can also suffer from sickness and disease. Today, Forestry Commission wildlife rangers are managing deer populations sensitively and humanely.

Identification

Red deer are red-coloured in summer. This changes to greyish brown in winter. Stags are easily identified by their large antlers.

How we manage our woods

Red deer range widely and the Forestry Commission is working closely with neighbouring landowners and partners including the British Deer Society, Association of Deer Management Groups and The Deer Initiative to manage deer populations.

 

Vital statistics

Height: males 105 - 135 cm at the shoulder, females 100 - 120 cm
Weight: males 190 kg, females 120 kg
Lifespan: 15-18 years
Numbers in Britain: around 350,000 in Scotland. No estimates for England and Wales.

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