Red Deer

Primarily found in


Intro to the Red Deer

Red deer have been successfully introduced in countries like New Zealand, Australia and Argentina, as well as the U.S.

Often confused with elk because the overall similarity in appearance, red deer have a brown coat that has a red hue that becomes more prominent in summer months.  Rump patch is light brown to rust in color.  Males develop neck "ruff" during autumn, persisting into winter.  Fawns are born with spots.  Faint spots can sometimes be observed on the backs of mature animals.  Adult male stags are distinguished by the "crown" or "cup" of points at the tops of both beams, whereas bull elk generally grow a "row" of single points off of the main beam.  Horns grow from the burr up and back in a circular pattern and are shed annually, usually around March each year.  Regrowth occurs shortly thereafter and continues in a velvet stage until July to October, when velvet is stripped.  Horns can grow at a rate of 1 inch a day.  Five to six points per side is common, but can be in excess of 20 per side.  Red deer stand between 41 and 48 inches at the shoulder.  Male weights range from 230 to 750 lbs, averaging 600 lbs in the U.S.  Females will weigh 190 lbs (+/- 30lbs).

Red Deer behavior

Adapted for life in open forests.  Tend to avoid high altitudes and rugged terrain.  Drink water on a regular basis.  Males and females will wade in bodies of water to reduce body temperature.  Males use wallows much like elk, to cool themselves and mark their territories during the rut.   Rub against trees and other objects to remove thick winter coat.   May strip tree bark to reach sugar-rich sap in late winter or periods of food shortage.  Posture and fight during rut to establish dominance.  Will also fight, and may breed with, related species such as American elk, sika deer, axis deer, and Père David's deer.  Older males (usually 8 yrs or older) keep harems of up to 20 females (or hinds) that they guard from other stags.  Use "roars" to gather harem and display dominance within the herd (see video below).  Louder, more numerous roars are often associated with larger body size and greater virility.  These vocalizations are most often heard during dawn and late evening.  Red deer are usually compatible with other species, though males become aggressive during rutting period.  Defend themselves from predators using horns as well as strong front-leg kicks.

Red Deer food and eating habits

Primarily a browser of forbs, supplemented with grasses.  Prefer grazing sites composed of short grasses with the presence of broadleaf plants.  Strip the bark of trees to reach sap if food is scarce.

Red Deer average life span

Can live up to 25 years, but seldom reach more than 15