The red deer is the UK's largest deer species and adult males - the stags - are easily recognisable by their impressively large antlers. The largest herds are found in the Highlands and islands, although large numbers can be also found in the Galloway hills, the Outer Hebrides and in Highland Perthshire.
Stags and hinds live in separate herds for much of the year but come together rather vocally in late September or early October at the start of the breeding season, or rut. Hinds (females) are only fertile for a day or less each year so the competition to mate is incredibly high.
Battles for dominance
During the rut, younger newcomers will challenge the current dominant stag for the attention of the herd hinds (females) with elaborate and noisy clashes of antlers and 'roaring' which can be heard quite from some distance. The effort involved in the head-to-head battles means that over the course of the rut, stags may lose as much as 20% of their body weight as they wrestle for control of their harem. The ultimate victor will mate with as many females as possible, usually up to 20, with calves being born the following June.
Watching the rut
The Beinn Eighe and Creag Meagaidh reserves in Wester Ross and Laggan respectively are owned and managed by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) who regularly organise ranger-led trips to view the rut.
The Forestry Commission also organises viewing trips to Achray Forest, part of the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park.
If are you are planning to view this amazing spectacle, please remember to give the animals space and respect. Disturbing deer during the rutting season can be dangerous and also affect the behaviour of the deer.