Sunday 28 August 2011

Sunday 28th August

Our resident red deer stag has finally shed all the velvet off his antlers now that it is getting close to the rutting season. The velvet supplies oxygen and nutrients to the antler to help it grow and since the antler is the fastest growing mammal bone it needs a lot of nutrients. Once it has reached its full size the velvet is no longer required so it dies and falls off leaving the dead bone. This also means that there are no longer nerves around the antlers so the stags can use them for displays and fights in order to get mates. We have had the same resident stag here at the castle for quite a few years now and he is getting quite old which you can tell from the size of his antlers. You cannot actually tell the age of a stag but counting the number of points on its antlers as size is also determined by the deer’s nutrition and health due to the vast nutrient requirements needed in growing antlers.
The rut itself will start at the end of September and will last until about November at which point the stags will be competing with each other for mates and guarding groups of females called a harem. During this time males will size each other up to assess dominance and will challenge a harem holder by roaring repeatedly for up to 20 minutes. If the stag is out roared he will back down but if there is no clear winner then it will lead onto a battle to determine the dominant male. When this happens the males will walk in parallel with each other until one lowers its head inviting the other to charge. They will fight and push each other until one submits and the winner will gain the breeding rights until challenged again. This can often lead to injuries and fatalities and in some cases their antlers can become locked together and then both will starve to death as they cannot feed or drink like this. Our resident male has a whole harem to himself so will not have to worry about competing to breed but in the hills you should be able to hear the stags roaring at each other in the following month but don’t get too close as they can be very dangerous during this time.

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