The weather might be getting colder, but things are heating up at the Highland Wildlife Park as the annual deer rut gets into full swing.
Top stags Thor and Snap are vying for dominance, and as the weather grows colder the rut will become more intense.
Head hoofed stock keeper Morag Sellar, who has kept a watchful eye over this year’s rut, said: “Now the breeding season has begun, both our fully grown stags Thor and Snap are battling for dominance.
“The objective of a stag during a deer rut is to round up all the females in the group into what’s called a harem, and mate with each one. At the moment Thor seems to be faring the best, while Snap is falling behind— but everything could change.
“A red deer rut typically lasts four to six weeks. During the rut visitors might hear the deep bellowing of the stags. They might also catch sight of the stags wallowing and covering themselves in mud, this is intended to make them appear more handsome to the female deer and also to intimidate rival stags.
“When the stags are about to fight they walk side by side, before facing each other square on. With seven-pronged antlers these deer are capable of doing significant damage, but they are remarkably robust animals.”
The Highland Wildlife Park is home to around 40 deer. Along with the adult stags Snap and Thor, there are two juvenile stags in the group, Atlas and Wanderer.
Morag said: “Atlas and Wanderer are still a bit too young to really get involved in the rut. They have been roaring and showing some interest, but they are soon chased away by the older males.”
While this time of year is full of drama for the red deer group, life will begin to quiet down as the deer rut comes to an end.
In March the stags will cast off their antlers and begin to grow new ones, while in June to July any red deer calves will be born.
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