Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Fallow Elk

As both Nature's Calendar on tv and the BBC Wildlife magazine have pointed out we're around the fallow deer rutting season. I know there are quite a few in the Forest of Dean, but I'm not sure whether they have particular stands that are used each year. Perhaps one for my friend Google.

One thing I didn't know is that they are the closest surviving relatives of the Giant Deer, Megaloceros giganteus. Nor did I know that this is the correct name for what I've always known as the Giant Irish Elk (apparently they weren't elk and lived in lots of places outside Ireland)
This creature caught my attention some years ago on a trip to Chillingham Castle in Northumberland, where they had a set of antlers in the cafe. You can see how they dwarf the other antlers on display. These amazing creatures stood over 2m tall, and weighed around 700kg - the antlers alone weighed 35-40kg. Like modern deer the antlers were shed annually, and it's been calculated that the male would have needed to eat 40kg of food a day to support their development in the growing season. Perhaps no great surprise they died out about 10,000 years ago.
It also reminded me of a frustrating day last year when I nearly got a nice shot of a fallow deer with a full head of antlers - nice warm evening sun, etc but it would just not raise it's head. As it was a trip out to a stately home there was a time limit as to how long I could justify standing there! You can see the likeness in the shape of the antlers, but clearly a bit more spinach needed!

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