Red Deer - Cervus elaphus
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The red deer (Cervus elaphus) is one of the largest deer species. The red deer inhabits most of Europe, the Caucasus Mountains region, Asia Minor, Iran, parts of western Asia, and central Asia. It also inhabits the Atlas Mountains region between Morocco and Tunisia in northwestern Africa, being the only species of deer to inhabit Africa. Red deer have been introduced to other areas, including Australia, New Zealand, United States, Canada, Peru, Uruguay, Chile and Argentina. In many parts of the world, the meat (venison) from red deer is used as a food source.
The red deer is the fourth-largest deer species behind moose, elk and sambar deer. It is a ruminant, eating its food in two stages and having an even number of toes on each hoof, like camels, goats and cattle. European red deer have a relatively long tail compared to their Asian and North American relatives. Subtle differences in appearance are noted between the various subspecies of red deer, primarily in size and antlers, with the smallest being the Corsican red deer found on the islands of Corsica and Sardinia and the largest being the Caspian red deer (or maral) of Asia Minor and the Caucasus Region to the west of the Caspian Sea. The deer of central and western Europe vary greatly in size, with some of the largest deer found in the Carpathian Mountains in Central Europe.Western European red deer, historically, grew to large size given ample food supply (including people's crops), and descendants of introduced populations living in New Zealand and Argentina have grown quite large in both body and antler size. Large red deer stags, like the Caspian red deer or those of the Carpathian Mountains, may rival the wapiti in size. Female red deer are much smaller than their male counterparts.
The European red deer is found in southwestern Asia (Asia Minor and Caucasus regions), North Africa and Europe. The red deer is the largest non-domesticated land mammal still existing in Ireland. The Barbary stag (which resembles the western European red deer) is the only member of the deer family represented in Africa, with the population centred in the northwestern region of the continent in the Atlas Mountains. As of the mid-1990s, Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria were the only African countries known to have red deer.
In the Netherlands, a large herd (ca. 3000 animals counted in late 2012) lives in the Oostvaarders Plassen, a nature reserve. Ireland has its own unique subspecies. In France the population is thriving, having multiplied fivefold in the last half-century, increasing from 30,000 in 1970 to approximately 160,000 in 2014. The deer has particularly expanded its footprint into forests at higher altitudes than before. In the UK, indigenous populations occur 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, such as Warnham or Woburn Abbey, in an attempt to increase antler sizes and body weights. The University of Edinburgh found that, in Scotland, there has been extensive hybridisation with the closely related sika deer.
Several other populations 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; they formed the basis of a new population based in Thetford Forest in Norfolk. Further substantial red deer herds originated from escapes or deliberate releases in the New Forest, the Peak District, Suffolk, Lancashire, Brecon Beacons, and North Yorkshire, as well as many other smaller populations scattered throughout England and Wales, and they are all generally increasing in numbers and range. A census of deer populations in 2007 and again in 2011 coordinated by the British Deer Society records the red deer as having continued to expand their range in England and Wales since 2000, with expansion most notable in the Midlands and East Anglia.