Red deer

©Gillian Day

Red deer

Scientific name: Cervus elaphus
Standing proud and tall, the red deer is our largest deer. With its massive antlers, it is an unmistakeable icon of the Scottish highlands, but can be seen in North west and southern England, too.

Species information

Statistics

Length: 1.7-2m
Shoulder height: 1.37m
Weight: 70-225kg
Average lifespan: 16-18 years

Conservation status

Common. Protected in the UK under the Deer Act 1991.

When to see

January to December

About

The red deer is the UK's largest deer. Males have large, branching antlers, increasing in size as they get older. During the autumnal breeding season, known as the 'rut, males bellow to proclaim their territory and will fight over the females, sometimes injuring each other with their sharp antlers. A single calf is usually born the following spring. Red deer live on moorland and mountainsides, as well as grasslands near to woodland. They can be seen in deer parks throughout the country.
Red deer mainly eat grasses, sedges, rushes and dwarf shrubs like Heather.

How to identify

The red deer has dark russet-brown fur, with a paler buff rump patch and a pale tail. Look out for herds of large, sturdy deer with branching antlers.

Distribution

Common in Scotland, particularly the Highlands and islands. Also found in the Lake District, Exmoor, the New Forest and Thetford Forest.

Did you know?

A male red deer is called a 'stag', a female is called a 'hind'. The most characteristic feature of a male is the impressive, branched antlers, which can measure up to one metre in breadth and weigh as much as 15kg. Within a few weeks of shedding old antlers, new ones will start to grow. They are covered in a soft skin called 'velvet', which nourishes them with blood vessels. Antler-growing is an energy-intensive activity and stags often lose weight during this process.

How people can help

We manage many woodland nature reserves for the benefit of the wildlife they support. You can help by supporting your local trust and becoming a member; you'll find out about exciting wildlife news, events on your doorstep and volunteering opportunities, and will be helping local wildlife along the way.