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The red deer is one of the largest species in the deer family. To be precise, they are the 4th largest deer species after the moose, elk, and sambar deer. They are also the largest deer in the UK. They are slightly larger and closely related to the American Elk or Wapiti, which were considered as red deer subspecies.
The massive ruminants are distributed in a few continents – North America, Europe, Asia, and in some parts of North-west Africa. Talking of their habitats, the red deer thrives best in open woodlands. However, they avoid dense unbroken forests. In some parts of Europe, though, they adapt to hills and open moor environments. They can also live in coniferous swamps, coniferous-hardwood forests, and aspen-hardwood
The red deer subject is quite broad, with so much to talk about, learn, and study. This article will mainly focus on female red deer.
How to Identify a Female Red Deer
Female red deer, also known as hinds, are different in appearance and behavior compared to their male counterparts – the stags. It might seem a challenge to differentiate hinds from stags for those who do not know what to look for. Here is what to look for;
No Antlers on a Female Red Deer
First, look for the antlers. It is one of the easiest ways for differentiating hinds from the stags. Just like most other deer species, female red deer do not have antlers. However, some female deer, such as caribou species, produce small antler stumps.
The second hack is to estimate the size of the female deer. Like other deer species, Female red deer are smaller in terms of height and weight than the males. Typically, female red deer weigh 63-120kgs with heights ranging from 1.07 to 1.22 meters.
Accompanied by Young Ones
Another thing to look at is the deer’s company. Calves usually accompany the mother hinds for up to one year. On the contrary, their male counterparts do not stick or graze with their young ones. A stag will stay by himself or in the company of fellow stags.
Red Brown Color
Veteran deer hunters can also tell a female red deer by color. The coloration largely depends on seasons and the habitats. Hinds are easily distinguished by their mostly uniform dark rusty red-brown color, especially during summers. As winter approaches, they turn grayish so that they can blend with their surroundings. During all seasons though, their underbellies are usually gray.
To differentiate hinds from stags, the hinds, especially during summers, have paler faces and throats compared to the stags.
Mammary glands are also a feminine feature. Try to look for them upon sighting a red deer to tell where it is male or female.
Female Red Deer Social Structure
The red deer are fascinating animals known to associate in family groupings. In fact, red deer live in herds that vary in sizes, with the largest of up to 400 individuals. A large pack indicates that the habitat is providing adequate food and shelter for every individual. On the other hand, smaller herds could imply that a larger one branched off to meet the members’ needs.
Red deer generally exhibit distinct sexual segregation except for during the breeding season. Although some stags may be seen in the company of hinds, it is rare for more than 3-year old stags to associate with their female counterparts.
Since the red deer live in sexually segregated groupings, hind groups are more stable than the stag (bachelor)groups. Typically, the hind groups are both matrilineal and matriarchal. This suggests that they follow a hierarchy where mothers are dominant and superior to their daughters. In the rankings, age is also a factor, where an older daughter is dominant to the younger ones.
Interestingly, the dominance relationships remain stable even after the hinds grow past 3 years and change in body size. This could be the reason why a hind tends to be reluctant to leave its group, even when holding a low ranking.
For the record, female deer that know each other do not undertake contests to establish dominance. When hinds move to new groups, they potentially engage in dangerous conflicts in efforts of trying to establish their place.
As young hinds grow up, they tend to disassociate more with their mothers. When they reach 4-5 years, they start adopting their own range, which eventually overlaps those of their mothers.
Why Hinds Associate More on Matrilines
A study in Rum also observed that daughters of young hinds associate more closely with the dams compared to daughters of older hinds. To explain this behavior, it is factual to say that older mothers have several daughters than younger ones. As a result, the calves seek company from their sisters rather than their aged mother.
This drives to the conclusion that female deer tend to associate closely with their sisters and mothers than they do with those belonging to different matrilines. Hinds are concomitantly observed in the company of their aunts and nieces.
Among social animals, they are generally more tolerant amongst their offspring compared to strangers. Similarly, they will even feed closer to their family members than they would with strangers. Youngsters are also safer from predators when near parents and other immediate family members. Besides, this also applies to us humans.
Indeed, it is beneficial for hinds to associate with their kins. An observation from the Rum documents that if orphan hinds aren’t adopted early, they often suffer aggression from other herds. They will also hold a low hierarchy status once adopted.