A week in the forest: stag and its antlers

Photographed by Peep Käspre

Red deer     Punahirv        Cervus elaphus

The stag on the picture has six-tined antlers, he is likely to be about eight years old and the length of the antlers is more than seventy centimeters. The number of tines does not reflect the deer`s age, as used to be thought.
The growth of the stag`s antlers is largely supported by a varied diet. The ones with five-tined antlers already have a harem and they are called dominating males. The stags reach sexual maturity at age two, however, „young men“ are simply distant observers. Fighting for the supremacy in the harem takes place between relatively equal competitors and and their duel may become quite rough and bloody, where the weaker or injured deer will retreat, but with ill fortune, both competitors may die from the injuries they received during the fight...
Until the age of ten, the stags`antlers grow more and more tines and become increasingly spectacular (stags with antlers which have more than ten tines are rare and the deer cannot grow „shovel horns“ like the elk). After reaching ten years of age, the number of tines decreases year by year. 
The mating season is nearly over. Females and young deer are moving in herds of their own and the stags form separate groups.  The gestation period period is about seven months and in May we can expect the red deer to have offspring  - a hind usually gives birth to one calf.




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