Deer in the Highlands
Monday, 23 Jul 2012
Visitors to the Highland Wildlife Park will be seeing red…red deer calves that is. The Highland herd of red deer recently welcomed lots of new calves, with the first one arriving towards the end of May.
The large herd of red deer - 46 to be exact - welcomed the first of 13 new calves at the end of May with the latest new arrival being born in mid-June. The herd can be spotted roaming the extensive main reserve of the Park; the new mums, with calves in toe make up the hind herd, the calves, who have only started to venture out and be more visible, continue to stay close by to their mums but are often to be seen in groups playing together while the adults graze.
Britain's largest land mammal, Scottish red deer were once woodland creatures, but due to habitat loss created by forest clearance, these majestic animals have adapted to herd life in the Highlands on open moorland. These animals take their name from their reddish coloured coats which are short in summer but grow darker in colour, and thicker in winter to insulate them from the severe conditions of the high open grounds in which the live.
The males, also known as stags or harts, are easily identifiable due to their large branching antlers and thick mane of hair around their necks - making them particular striking to look at. The Park is ideally suited to these impressive animals with a vast 80 acres of open moor and hillside allowing this growing herd to roam as they would in the wild. With the rut due to start in a few months, the dynamic of the herd changes with the males actively competing for dominance and mating rights.
Douglas Richardson, animal collection manager at the Highland Wildlife Park, said:
"It's always exciting whenever we have births at the Park and it's great to have such a large herd of red deer as we do. The population of red deer, Britain's largest land mammal, is skewed, with the majority located in the Scottish Highlands, but they were once found throughout the UK. The Park lends itself perfectly to providing the ideal conditions for which these animals are suited as they have access to a large area of land which they share with our herds of European bison and Przewalski's wild horses.
"Unlike most of the other species in the Park, we have a hands-off policy with our red deer and manage them as one would a wild herd. Our 13 new calves have only recently started to venture out and about with their mums, when they are first born the mum will hide them in amongst the long grass to keep the young out of sight of predators. There are no predators in the Park, but these protective behaviours are so hard-wired the red deer hinds continue to behave as if packs of wolves were on their doorstep".
Photo provided by Alex Riddell.
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