a walk last night off the ‘beaten track’ in to woodland soon had 11 sets of eyes reflected back at me …

Like the rest of us, some of the ‘Big Moor’ red deer (Cervus elaphus) herd have roamed to places offering a bit more protection from the current cold weather.

Now is a good time of the year to see several pairs of eyes reflected in your torchlight when walking the quieter valleys, woodlands and copses at night …

The herd, which some folk believe to be descendents of ‘escapees’ from Chatsworth, are entirely wild, and number about 170.

Go for a walk at dusk (without a dog) and walk in to the ‘heart’ of woodland in the Peak District and the western edges of Sheffield, and you may see them.

Mature males (about 8 yrs old) in peak breeding condition sport large antlers with up to 16 points – this chap was magnificent, but it was too dark to count the points on his headwear !! These dominant males are called ‘monarchs’. They can stand 4ft tall and weigh 200kg. The hind (female) red deer do NOT have antlers.

Outside the rut (Sept to Nov) males and females live separately. In open habitat, hinds and their young will gather in large herds, while stags live in loose bachelor groups. Deer are less social in woodland, typically living in smaller groups comprising a female and her young.

I’ll head back over at the weekend and see if i can distinguish the gender make up of this small group that i have observed not too far from my home …..

PS as they are illegally stalked it is ‘sensible practise’ amongst wildlife watchers to not reveal the exact location of deer (notwithstanding the two ‘famous’ herds at Chatsworth and Big Moor). Both these herds are professionally culled to control numbers.

‘now then’

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