Red deer are largest native UK land mammal with a fully grown stag weighing up to 200kg (32 stone) and standing up to 1.40m (just under 5 foot at the shoulder) with a nose to tail length of 2m (which is about the same length as the original Smart Car). It is estimated that there are 340,000 to 400,000 red deer in Scotland.
In Scotland, red deer tend to favour upland areas and open moor, in England they are more common in areas of deciduous woodland. Out of the breeding season, large single sex groups of several hundred individuals can form.
The red deer rut occurs between September and November. Peak activity is between dawn and dusk but deer will utilise darkness in areas of higher disturbance. At this time males can appear darker because they roll in their own urine. This is thought to help stimulate the females and bring them on heat. Males are sexually mature in their second year but rarely get to mate until they are over five years old. Stags will tend to attract groups of 10 to 15 females, but a very large dominant male can have groups containing up to 70 hinds. During the rut males test each other out with escalating levels of aggression. This starts with roaring, moves into parallel walking and then engaging antlers as a last resort.
There are between 42,000 and 74,000 accidents involving deer each year costing £50M in material damage and human injury (£9M in Scotland), resulting in around 400 injuries and 20 deaths each year. Dawn and dusk are the most likely time of day for deer collisions. If you see deer, slow down and turn off your main beam as sometimes stragglers are behind the rest of the group and will run to catch them up. Don’t over-react and start swerving excessively, it is safer to continue on your current trajectory as trying to second guess which way the deer might go can be dangerous. NB If you swerve to miss a deer and hit another vehicle or a tree it’s going to be hard to prove the deer ever existed. If you have to stop on the road, remember to put your hazard lights on. If you hit a deer you are legally obliged to report the incident to the police by phoning 101.