Thor wins the herd

October 30, 2013 § Leave a comment


Rutting season this year has been fraught with drama at the Highland Wildlife Park, with the two big stags battling it out for control of the herd of red deer females. After several days of clashes and dominance displays, the Park’s very own God of Thunder has won the herd.

At 14 years old, Thor is the Park’s oldest stag but had very stiff competition from his younger rival, Atlas.

Douglas Richardson, Head of Living Collections at the Highland Wildlife Park, said:

“As Scottish red deer are grazers, visitors often expect them to be tranquil and docile, so they get quite a shock when the rutting season arrives and the males start to bellow and roar. Thor in particular lives up to his name and his hollering can be very impressive – this boy is certainly no Bambi.”

The Highland Wildlife Park is home to an impressive herd of 47 red deer, which live in the 60 acres that make up the main drive-through reserve. This year, the Park had an exceptionally successful breeding season, with 17 fawns born over the summer.

Red Deer, Thor by Jan Morse

Red Deer, Thor by Jan Morse

Native to Scotland, red deer are the largest land animal within the UK. A stag’s branched antlers can reach over one metre in width and a stag can stand up to 1.2 metres tall at the shoulder. The rut is the start of the mating season, which usually lasts from September until November, during which rival males will compete for access to the females. At first, the stags will usually walk in parallel to size their opponent up and younger or smaller males will often bow out at this stage. If one stag does not walk away, the contest will then escalate with the two males charging and locking antlers in an attempt to throw their opposition off balance. In the wild, this can sometimes lead to injury, even death, though at the Park keepers are on hand to treat any injuries that may occur.

Although Atlas was Thor’s only rival this year, next year he may have even more of a battle on his hands with several other males of the herd showing increasing signs of dominance.

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