Red deer – Britain’s largest land mammals – are at their most impressive during the autumn rut, when they advertise their power by prolonged roaring. There are many places to watch and listen to this natural spectacle, but perhaps the most accessible is Richmond Park in southwest London.
The photo (one of a series published in the Daily Mail) captures the atmosphere in the park on a misty autumn morning. The herd of Red deer, about 300-strong, are relatively accustomed to people, allowing for close views. Nevertheless, these are wild animals and an element of danger is always present.
A very different option for rut-watching is right at the other end of Britain, on the tiny Isle of Rum in the Inner Hebrides, where views of clashing antlers are also guaranteed. Red deer were introduced here by man and have been the focus of a study since the island was acquired by the Nature Conservancy Council in 1958. The wealth of information obtained here has been very useful for Red deer population management in Scotland.
The Isle of Rum offers interesting accommodation, ranging from wild camping to four-poster beds in Kinloch Castle.
What happens during the Rutting Season?
By August, the stags are already getting edgy in each other’s company and the last of the velvet falls from their antlers. As testosterone levels surge, their necks thicken and they grow a mane. In September, the stags will begin gathering their harems of hinds for mating, and establish a rutting stand, marked with scent. When a rival approaches, the stags will roar and walk in parallel, sizing each other up. If no one backs down, they will lock antlers, risking serious injury.
The six-week rutting season peaks in October. During this period the stag will barely eat and can lose up to 20% of body weight.