Individual recognition and observation and genetic paternity analysis provides us with great detail about the lives of the deer, and about how successful, or not, different individuals are. Here you’ll find more detail about some of the deer already mentioned, and a few others with exceptional lives…
The wonder-mum matriline: Sycamore, Sequoia and Navajo
In the history of the project, four hinds have been very successful at producing offspring:Old Tagged, Colc, Gravel and Feadag each produced 14 sons or daughters. But it’s the mums who produce lots of offspring that go on to survive and reproduce- and so pass on the mum’s genes- who can be considered truly successful.
Sequoia, the hind featured in ‘What’s in a name?’, was born in 1991, and has produced a remarkable five successful daughters, who between them currently have seventeen living offspring. One of her daughters, Navajo, pictured right, with Sequoia, has turned out to be particularly productive. Navajo produced her first calf, a female now called Zapotec, at the age of the age of three, and has produced a male calf each year since. Amazingly, her offspring also seem able to survive the trials of early life, as all four of Navajo’s offspring are currently alive.Sequoia may have produced many successful daughters, but her mother, Sycamore, did even better. As well as producing the successful Sequoia, Sycamore also produced four successful males, who had 36 offspring between them.
This may be a very successful family, but Sycamore’s lineage were not the ultimate wonder-mums by any means. Another female, RedOnYellow, also had four successful male offspring, but these produced 71 offspring between them!
The spinster: Vanity
Born in 1995, and still alive and regularly seen in the north-east region of the study area, Vanity has never calved. Most females will start to reproduce at three or four years of age, or at the very latest aged five or six, but Vanity has taken the record by surviving to the ripe age of sixteen without ever having reproduced. The reasons for Vanity’s complete reproductive failure remain a mystery.
Monarchs of the Glen: RED77 and TNY94
RedonYellow77, son of wonder-female RedonYellow, was one of the most successful males the study area has seen, siring 43 offspring between 1977 and 1991. Genetic analysis later revealed RedonYellow77 had been fathered by Maxi, who is thought to have fathered at least 36 offspring himself. Four of RedonYellow77's sons grew up to become successful stags and sired 63 offspring between them, contributing to a total of 78 grandchildren for RedonYellow77.
Some males are successful not just because of the number of offspring they produce. For example, Percy, who viewers of the BBC’s Autumnwatch may remember, fathered 29 offspring- a good total in itself. However, Percy’s offspring are special because 27 out of 29 of them are born early in the calving season- in May, rather than June- which may offer the calves an advantage (see Current Research for information on the complicated question of whether birth date matters!).
However, the title of ‘Monarch of the Glen’ goes to a male called Tanya94, who sired an amazing 48 offspring between 1994 and 2008. Although not an official project name, viewers of the BBC’s Autumnwatch program in 2006-2007 will know Tanya94 better by the name of ‘Caesar’.
The longest lived deer: PinkGreenBlue
Born and tagged during the 1958-1972 research phase, this female deer – named after the colours of the flashes in her ears – went on to become the longest lived deer in Kilmory study. She was born in 1968 and died over winter in 1992, aged 24. Only two other deer have made it beyond 20 so far – Knot and Jeera, both females– so this is quite an achievement. The daughter of another highly successful female called Sobhrag, PinkGreenBlue had 13 offspring in her long life, four of whom went to become successful mothers themselves.
The wandering female
In the rut of 2006, the BBC Autumnwatch team caught a fascinating bit of female behaviour. Yosemite had been peacefully spending her days in the harem of a male called ‘Stuart’. But when she came into oestrus, she left Stuart’s harem and joined Tanya94 (‘Caesar’). And guess who sired YOS07? Genetic analysis tells us it was Tanya94!
On 24th June 2010 Mica, a female living in the southern part of the study area, produced a healthy son. Twelve days after he was born, whilst hiding in long grass waiting for his mother to return to suckle him, he was spotted by one of the golden eagles resident on Rum. Researchers actually witnessed the deadly eagle attack that followed. Most remarkable, the calf weighed 12kg at the time of death – probably three times as much as the eagle. Each year at least 2-3 calves at Kilmory are taken by golden eagles, who are themselves feeding hungry nestlings during the calving season.
Fight to the death
On the 3rd October 2009, a male called Proxy (known as ‘Titus’by BBC Autumnwatch) got into a fight with Percy, star of the BBC’s Autumnwatch footage. As the fight escalated, Proxy tumbled over a rock and onto his back, and Percy delivered a fatal probe to his stomach. Although fights resulting in deaths are relatively rare during the rut, Proxy’s illustrates the risks of engaging in combat for males.