Thursday, 8 October 2009

That time of year.....

That a Red deer stag foregoes the mates he has been hanging around with all year, to pass on his genes.
From the middle of September to the middle of November, the stags grow more & more irritated with each other. The bachelor herds they have spent the rest of the year in have now broken up. They then make their way to the hinds favourite feeding grounds (it is the hinds that determine where the rutt will take place, the stags just go to where they are).

What follows is better than any soap opera. Trials of strength take place between equally large stags. Roaring or bellowing signals their fitness to others & this is sometimes enough to deter a lesser stag. However, two large stags that do not back away from all this shouting could then end up testing each other. They first eye each other up by parallel walking, roaring as they go. If one is not scared off by this, they then turn to face each other, lowering their heads & engage. The design of the antlers is such that they interlock, preventing the beasts from stabbing each other. I have witnessed wily old stags turning their heads in order to get a tine through the guard & putting pressure on the oppositions neck. This is sometimes enough to make them run away while the victor chases, again roaring. On accasion, serious injury & sometimes death does occur. Stags with abnormal antlers, long tops or just single spikes can breach a bigger stronger animals defence & kill him. These abnormal animals are sometimes culled to prevent this happening. Some are killed by just bad luck. Any one who has been watching the BBC webcams from the rutting greens on Rum will no doubt know that Titus was killed on Saturday by Percy. He slipped & ended up on his back & was stabbed in the stomach. He died shortly afterwards.
Below are a few long range shots taken today at a site on the Quantock hills. A single mature stag was present along with 40+ hinds. These are wild animals & do not be put off by the fences in the background. They are there to prevent the deer getting in to the winter wheat, not to stop them escaping! This stag was also present last year & has a very impressive head.

To watch the webcams visit:

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