Red deer

The red deer is our second-largest deer. It has traditionally been most common in the West of Norway. In recent years they have also become common across much of Southern Norway and Trøndelag all the way up to the Saltfjellet mountain range in Nordland. The male red deer is called a stag, while the female is a hind. The young are called calves or fawns.

Red deer facts 

Latin: Cervus elaphus atlanticus
Family: Deer (Cervidae)
Height: 100 – 150 cm
Weight: 120 – 250 kg
Breeding season: October – November
Number of young: 1
Lifespan: 20 – 25 years

Red deer tracks 

The tracks of red deer can resemble those of the moose, but are slightly smaller and look blunter. The dew claws can be seen if the red deer sinks in, but will not be visible on hard ground. 

How does the red deer live?

The red deer is a large member of the deer family that can live alone or in small groups. The female, or hind, gives birth to her young in late May/early June. The calf may stay with it’s mother for several years. The males, or stags, will leave their mother after two years in order to find a territory for themselves. They may join up with other stags outside the breeding season. The females may stay with their mother for several years, although the majority leave home when the mother gives birth to a new calf. This means that small family groups of hinds and young animals may be formed. 

The breeding season, or rut, is in late October. The stags become aggressive towards each other and will try to impress the females with their big, beautiful antlers, and by rolling in mud holes that they have urinated in. These are called ‘rut holes’ and give the red deer stag a pungent odour, which is sheer perfume to the females! Red deer stags can also attract females with their mighty bellowing. This sound is loud and can be a little eerie in the dark of autumn. The bellowing sounds like this: 

Among red deer, only the stags have antlers. When they are large, a crown is formed with several points at the top. When a red deer has antlers like this, he is called a ‘crown stag’. 

What does the red deer eat?

Hjortens kosthold varierer litt gjennom året, siden ulike ting er tilgjengelig ved ulike tider. På våren spiser gjerne hjorten ferske skudd og planter av hvitveis, stormarimjelle, tepperot og gaukesyre blant annet. Gjennom sommeren spiser hjorten aller mest gress. Om høsten og vinteren spiser hjorten mer lyng, knopper og kvist. Hvis det ikke er for mye snø vil hjorten gjerne beite på røsslyng og blåbærlyng, men når snøen kommer må den spise mat som er over snøen. Da spiser den knopper, skudd og bark fra trær. Rogn, osp og selje er populært, men også skudd fra bartrær – spesielt gran.

The red deer’s diet varies slightly from season to season, with different foods being available at different times. In spring, the red deer likes to eat the fresh shoots and plants of wood anemone, common cow-wheat, common tormentil and wood-sorrel, among other things. During the summer, the red deer mainly eats grass. In autumn and winter, the red deer eats more heather, buds and twigs. If there is not too much snow, the red deer likes to graze on heather and blueberry bushes, but when the snow comes, it has to eat what is above the snow. It then eats twigs, buds and tree bark. Rowan, aspen and willow are popular, but it will also eat shoots from conifers, especially spruce. 

Where does the red deer live?

The red deer is a typical forest animal and happiest where it can hide from predators. Some red deer have a fixed territory, especially where food is plentiful all year round, while others will move between different grazing areas. They can roam for many tens of kilometres, crossing lakes and fjords on their travels. In fact, red deer have even been known to swim across the wide Trondheim Fjord! 

Learn more about red deer