Friday, 25 March 2011


Cervus genus ancestors of Red Deer first appear in fossil records 12 million years ago during the Miocene in Eurasia.[9] An extinct genus known as the Irish Elk (Megaloceros), not related to the red deer but to the fallow deer, is the largest member of the deer family known from the fossil record.[10]

The European Red Deer is one of the largest game animals found in Southwestern Asia (Asia Minor and Caucasus regions), North Africa and Europe. The Red Deer is the largest non-domesticated mammal still existing in some European countries such as the United Kingdom and Ireland.[9] The Barbary stag (which resembles the West European Red Deer) is the only member of the deer family that is represented in Africa, with population centred in the northwestern region of the continent in the Atlas Mountains.[11] As of the mid 1990s, Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria were the only African countries known to have Red Deer.[12]

In the UK there are indigenous populations in Scotland, the Lake District and the South West of England (principally on Exmoor). Not all of these are of entirely pure bloodlines as some of these populations have been supplemented with deliberate releases of deer from parks like Warnham or Woburn Abbey in an attempt to increase antler sizes and body weights. Edinburgh University found that in Scotland there has been extensive hybridisation with the closely related Sika Deer.[13] There are several other populations that have originated either with carted deer kept for stag hunts being left out at the end of the hunt, escapes from deer farms or deliberate releases. Carted deer were kept by stag hunts with no wild red deer in the locality and were normally recaptured after the hunt and used again; although the hunts are called "stag hunts" the Norwich Staghounds only hunted hinds (female red deer) and in 1950 at least eight hinds (some of which may have been pregnant) were known to be at large near Kimberley and West Harling[14] and formed the basis of a new population based in Thetford Forest in Norfolk. There are now further substantial red deer herds that originated from escapes or deliberate releases in the New Forest, the Peak District, Suffolk, Brecon Beacons and West Yorkshire as well as many other smaller populations scattered throughout England, and they are all generally increasing in numbers and range. A recent census of deer populations in 2007 coordinated by the British Deer Society records red deer as having expanded range their range in England and Wales since 2000, with expansion most notable in the Midlands and East Anglia. ref [1]

In New Zealand, and to a lesser degree in Australia, the red deer were introduced by acclimatisation societies along with other deer and game species. The first red deer to reach New Zealand were a pair sent by Lord Petre in 1851 from his herd at Thorndon Park, Essex to the South Island but the hind was shot before they had a chance to breed. Lord Petre sent another stag and two hinds in 1861 and these were liberated near Nelson from where they quickly spread. The first deer to reach the North Island were a gift to Sir Frederick Weld from Windsor Great Park and were released near Wellington and these were followed by further releases up to 1914.[15] Between 1851 and 1926 there were 220 separate liberations of red deer involving over 800 deer.[16] In 1927 the State Forest Service introduced a bounty for red deer shot on their land and in 1931 Government control operations were commenced and between 1931 and March 1975 1,124,297 deer were killed on official operations.

In New Zealand introduced Red Deer have adapted much better and are widely hunted on both islands, many of the 220 introductions used deer originating from Scotland (Invermark) or one of the major deer parks in England, principally Warnham, Woburn Abbey or Windsor Great Park. There is some hybridisation with the closely related Wapiti or American Elk (Cervus canadensis nelsoni) introduced in Fiordland in 1921. New Zealand red deer produce very large antlers and are regarded as amongst the best in the world by hunters. Along with the other introduced deer species they are however officially regarded as a noxious pest and are still heavily culled using professional hunters working with helicopters, or even poisoned.

The first red deer to reach Australia were probably the six that Prince Albert sent in 1860 from Windsor Great Park to Thomas Chirnside who was starting a herd at Werribee Park, south west of Melbourne in Victora. Further introductions were made in New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia. Today the red deer range in Australia ranges from Queensland down through New South Wales into Victoria and across to South Australia, with the numbers increasing. The Queensland, Victorian and most New South Wales strains can still be traced to the early releases, but South Australia's population along with all others is now largely recent farmed escapees. This is having adverse affects on the integrity of wild herds as now more and more larger herds are being grown due to the superior genetics that have been attained by select breeding.

Red Deer populations in Africa and southern Europe are generally declining. In Argentina, where the Red Deer has had a potential adverse impact on native animal species, the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources has labelled the animal as one of the world's 100 worst invaders.[17]
[edit] Migration

Red Deer in Europe generally spend their winters at lower altitudes in more wooded terrain. During the summer, they migrate to higher elevations where food supplies are greater for the calving season.

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