The red deer is Britain's largest land mammal and they are seen on the hills and in the many forests here on the Isle of Mull. In the winter they are often found along the shoreline licking the salt from the rocks. Stags and hinds live in separate herds for most of the year, each keeping to a well-defined territory.
Deer in woodland live in small groups but highland deer usually live in larger herds, moving up the hillsides by day to feed and shelter in the deeper heather or woods at night. Summer and winter territories are different. In winter the herds move to lower ground where there is more shelter, and in summer they keep to the higher slopes.
In late winter the stags lose their antlers, and soon after start to grow new ones. The growing antlers are relatively soft, and covered in skin known as 'velvet'. They may grow at a rate of 2.5cm (1") a day. Older stags grow larger antlers with more 'points'. When the antlers are fully grown and hardened the velvet has done its work, and the stags scrape their antlers on anything handy to remove it. They can cause considerable damage to bushes and trees by doing this.
In autumn the deer gather on lower ground for the annual rut (made famous by the BBC's Simon King in Autumnwatch) when the stags compete for the hinds.
In summer you may not see any deer at all, but in winter they become a hazard on the roads, particularly at night
Red deer can jump a two metre fence from a standstill, and in many parts of Mull you will see deer fencing over 2.5 metres high. The deer population is increasing (or at any rate spreading), so more and more areas are fenced - spreading the population further still.
© Martin Jones