Wednesday, 10 October 2012

The Rut!

It's that time of year again...

Over the next few weeks the annual rut will take place; this is a fantastic time to observe the deer, it is a fascinating time of year. The males that have spent lazy summer days together, growing antlers and putting on weight (in preparation for the rut) become less tolerant of each other and separate.

Triggered by shorter daylight hours, they will begin to call; the Red Deer have a loud bellow that can be heard over long distances while the Fallow make a noise that can be best described as a belching rasp!

Bellowing Deer: Photos courtesy of Ben Pickersgill - Flickr

Wallows are dug out in a wet area with thrashing antler and pawing hoof, they are urinated in before wallowing begins to give the animal not only a fearsome appearance but a pungent smell too! Antlers may be adorned with grass for a similar reason. All this display, vocal and physical, is to intimidate rivals and to attract females. Bucks will “parallel walk”, walking along side each other over long distances, calling and sizing each other up. Fighting is a last resort. Antlers clash, locked together in a pushing match to decipher the strongest animal, this may go on for some time with two evenly matched individuals. The weaker one will eventually back down and retreat, the victor will often at this point, call at them in celebratory fashion. Injuries do occur but are thankfully uncommon. During the rut the males cease feeding.

Wallowing in the mud: photos courtesy of Ben Pickersgill - Flickr

The differences between Red & Fallow Deer

The two species of deer here at Tatton employ two different strategies to facilitate successful mating. Red Deer physically herd together a group of females known as a harem and move around with them, defending them against any interloper. Young males are often seen on the peripheries of the group, opportunists waiting for the alpha male to be distracted!

Fallow Deer have a totally different technique; they choose a territory, often in woodland on raised ground. This is known as a “stand” where the Buck will call from to attract does into his territory. Branches in the area will have scent on them, smeared from a gland just below their eye; this is visible on the buck’s face. 

The females only come season for a twenty four hour period and only during this time will she stand for the male. If she is not covered early in the rut, she will again come into season later, but this is not ideal as it leads to late calves the following year.
The rut ends in November; then the males gorge themselves on acorns desperate to replenish energy in time for the on set of winter.

We would like to thank Ben Pickersgill, a park visitor who very kindly sent in and allowed us to use these wonderful Deer images, that really capture the Deer Rut.

For more fantastic images of the parkland and its wildlife visit our Facebook page or find us on Flickr. 

Darren Morris, Park Ranger

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