The Rut: Deer to Our Hart at Tatton Park
The end of September marks the beginning of the highly competitive mating season, known as ‘the rut’. And competing for fair ladies’ hooves are scores of posturing male Red and Fallow deer – every one of them desperate to avoid the lonely harts’ club.
The rutting season is triggered by the shorter daylight hours and cooler weather. Tatton Park is one of the best places in the UK to witness this spectacular event. A deer park since 1290, Tatton is now home to over 400 Red and Fallow deer, who roam freely within its 1,000 acres of Parkland.
The drama of the autumn deer rut reaches its height in the antler-clashing battles between the males. Phil Lucas, Park Manager commented “The stags, who have been the best of friends all summer, hanging around in their bachelor groups, suddenly become real rivals. Believe me, only the fittest and strongest will succeed in their efforts to win the females!”.
The preparations for the rut start in August, when the male deer ‘fray’ the velvet off their hardened antlers by rubbing them on trees and branches. Their necks also begin to swell and thicken, strengthening them for potential clashes with other male ‘suitors’.
Males begin to roar and ‘parallel walk’ to intimidate rivals and to attract the mature females. They also have some more subtle techniques in their arsenal. How about this for cologne: the male deers urinate and wallow in mud hollows – the pungent scent being (apparently) very attractive to the females!
The two species of deer have quite different breeding strategies. The Fallow males (bucks) hold ‘a stand’, meaning they stay in one territory, usually on higher or rising ground, where they can be seen and heard by the females. The Red males (stags), the largest British land mammal, will take control of a group or ‘harem’ of females (hinds) and continually move around and defend the hinds, fighting off any young pretenders.
Visitors to the parkland will be able to witness the deer rut throughout the autumn, until the end of November. Please do not approach or disturb the deer.
The Parkland is open from Monday to Sunday 10am-7pm (last entry 6pm) in High Season (until 4th October) and from Tuesday to Sunday 11am-5pm (last entry 4pm) in Low Season from 5th October. Park entry £4.50 per car.
Deer Feed and Trailer Ride
Enjoy a trailer ride in the Park and an early morning deer feed on Tuesday 22nd December. 9.30am-10.30am £5 Adult, £3 Child (5+). Includes entry to the Park. Numbers strictly limited.
Places must be booked in advance on: 01625 374428.
picture (C)Richard Dixon