REDSTAGThe red deer (Cervus elaphus) is one of the largest deer species. The red deer inhabits most of Europe, the Caucasus Mountains region, Asia Minor, parts of western Asia, and central Asia. It also inhabits the Atlas Mountains region between Morocco and Tunisia in northwestern Africa, being the only species of deer to inhabit Africa. Red deer hunting in Texas have been introduced to other areas, including Australia, New Zealand and Argentina. In many parts of the world, the meat (venison) from red deer is used as a food source.

Red deer are ruminants, characterized by an even number of toes, and a four-chambered stomach. Genetic evidence indicates the red deer (Cervus elaphus) as traditionally defined is a species group rather than a single species, although it remains disputed as to exactly how many species the group includes.  The slightly larger American elk or wapiti, native to North America and eastern parts of Asia, represents a distinct species besides red deer. The ancestor of all red deer, including wapiti, probably originated in central Asia and probably resembled sika deer.

Although at one time red deer were rare in some areas,they were never close to extinction. Reintroduction and conservation efforts, especially in the United Kingdom, have resulted in an increase of red deer populations, while other areas, such as North Africa, have continued to show a population decline.

 

Mature red deer (C. elaphus) usually stay in single-sex groups for most of the year. During the mating season, called the rut, mature stags compete for the attentions of the hinds and will then try to defend the hinds they attract. Rival stags challenge opponents by belling and walking in parallel. This allows combatants to assess each other’s antlers, body size and fighting prowess. If neither stag backs down, a clash of antlers can occur, and stags sometimes sustain serious injuries.

Dominant stags follow groups of hinds during the rut, from August into early winter. The stags may have as many as 20 hinds to keep from other, less attractive males.Only mature stags hold harems (groups of hinds), and breeding success peaks at about eight years of age. Stags two to four years old rarely hold harems and spend most of the rut on the periphery of larger harems, as do stags over 11 years old. Young and old stags that do acquire a harem hold it later in the breeding season than those stags in their prime. Harem-holding stags rarely feed and lose up to 20% of their body weight. Stags that enter the rut in poor condition are less likely to make it through to the peak conception period.

Male European red deer have a distinctive “roar”-like-sound (not to be confused with actual roars made by lions, panthers and the like) during the rut, which is an adaptation to forested environments, as opposed to male (American elk or wapiti) which “bugle” during the rut in adaptation to open environments. The male deer roars to keep his harem of females together. The females are initially attracted to those males that both roar most often and have the loudest roar call. Males also use the roar call when competing with other males for females during the rut, and along with other forms of posturing and antler fights, is a method used by the males to establish dominance.  Roaring is most common during the early dawn and late evening, which is also when the crepuscular deer are most active in general.