One of Cambridgeshire's oddest traditions gets under way this morning...
Watch Out For Morris The Red Deer Stag!
Raging hormones and the call of nature are making Morris the red deer stag at New Forest Wildlife Park extremely frisky!
It's the annual rutting season and Morris has been squaring up to all males, even his human male keepers and the massive European bison who share his enclosure.
"He can't think of anything else," said New Forest Wildlife Park Animal Manager Jason Palmer.
"Hell do anything to protect his girls and even though he's the only red deer stag in the park, he is still very aggressive to males of any other species.
"His hormones are really raging and he's stopped eating. He needs to prove himself, but he can't fight other red deer stags, so he'll have a go at anything else. He was eyeing me up and making threatening gestures the other day so we'll have to keep away from him for the time being. We've also separated him from the bison to avoid any trouble.
"The rutting season for red deer usually takes place for around three months, between October and January, depending on what part of the country the deer are located in. During the rut, or breeding season, red deer stags in the wild return to the hinds' home ranges and compete for breeding access, squaring up to other male competitors in elaborate displays of dominance, including roaring and fighting. Whoever wins the fight becomes the dominant stag and has exclusive access to the female hinds."
The red deer normally share an enclosure and field with the park's three male European bison, who are part of a captive breeding programme for endangered species. European bison used to be native to Britain and would normally cohabit with red deer in the wild.
"Morris has nine hinds in his enclosure and he has no real competition, but he can't help himself," said Jason.
"He has to use up the aggression and energy somehow, so he keeps bellowing constantly and adding long grass and twigs and moss to his antlers to make himself look more impressive. His antlers are about 14 points now and weight about 5.5 kilos, so we're not going to take him on."
Three-year-old Morris is lucky, since only stags over five years old tend to mate in the wild, despite being sexually active much earlier.
In woodland populations, hinds over one year old usually give birth to a single calf after an eight-month gestation period, between mid May to mid July each year.
New Forest Wildlife Park has several species of otters, deer and owls, including the endangered giant otter, as well as lynx, foxes, wallabies, European bison, wolves, wild boar, ferrets, pine marten, polecats, harvest mice, badgers and more.
The park is involved in international breeding programmes for endangered species and also works with the RSPCA to rescue injured or abandoned animals.
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