Highlands & Islands

Rum breeding hinds 'play the field', say researchers

Red deer hind and stag on Rum. Pic: Martyn Bak
Image caption The study suggested some hinds moved between groups of females

Scientists have recorded female red deer on Rum straying from their home territories and those areas' stags in search of a mate.

A long-term study of the island's deer suggest 43% of hinds in heat drift away from their home range, some travelling up two miles (4km) to find stags.

Researchers from Edinburgh and Cambridge universities believed the wandering deer may avoid inbreeding.

The scientists studied data on Rum's red deer going back 34 years.

Their research has suggested that females in heat moved between female groups, called harems, which are fought over by rival stags.

Katie Stopher, of the University of Edinburgh's School of Biological Sciences, said: "Females change harem during the autumn rut far more than we would expect.

"They are much more likely to do so when they are receptive to mating.

"It's not clear why females stray, but it seems not to be out of preference for another stag. More work is needed to understand why this happens and what the implications are."

The study, funded by the Natural Environment Research Council and the James Hutton Institute has been published in Behavioural Ecology.

Rum is a National Nature Reserve managed by Scottish Natural Heritage.

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