Differences in the quality of food eaten by red deer (Cervus elaphus) stags and hinds in winter.

Published online
01 Jan 1982
Content type
Journal article
Journal title
Journal of Applied Ecology

Staines, B. W. & Crisp, J. M. & Parish, T.

Publication language


Differences in the quality of food eaten by male and female red deer in winter were studied at Glenfeshie, in the central highlands of Scotland. Hinds had higher proportions of nitrogen (g/100 g DM) in the rumen contents than did stags, but the total amount of nitrogen in the rumen was similar in both sexes since stags had more rumen contents /unit body wt. Compared with stags, hinds ate less heather (Calluna vulgaris) and more grasses, particularly the more digestible, fine-leaved spp. Stags had greater proportions of the larger food particles in their rumens. The range occupied by hinds lay over relatively richer rocks than that used by stags, and also had greater areas of the more fertile soil types and the better quality grasslands. These results support earlier comparative work from the Island of Rhum in W. Scotland. It is proposed that stags and hinds adopt different feeding strategies, hinds selecting for quality and stags opting for a greater amount of poorer quality food. Possible reasons for this are discussed.

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