Venusberg Strange noises are once again emanating from the Waldau. For it is the mating season of the stags and the competitions in the enclosure cannot be ignored.
On the Waldau, the top deer takes a break at lunchtime. With its antlers raised, the proud animal has settled down in the grass. When the nights get cold and the temperatures drop during the day, it is mating season: the exhausting rut lasts about two weeks.
During this time, the stag eats very little and loses several kilos of body weight - after all, it is busy around the clock trying to win over the red deer cows and mate with them when they are ready. With the help of deep, long-drawn-out calls, the top dog and his rivals want to make an impression on the females. Passers-by report that the loud roaring can be heard from far away on the Venusberg. And the further the sound reaches, the better: because in nature, red deer inhabit large areas.
Male and female individuals, however, travel in separate herds, explains Harald Heilmann (56), operations manager at the city forestry office. "So that both sexes find each other, the stag calls in the rutting season - on the one hand to keep his rivals at bay, and on the other hand so that the female animals know that he is ready to mate." Afterwards, the stag is drawn to the female deer, i.e. the bald deer.
Walkers can watch the deer in the game reserve
Walkers can observe that deer and cows are currently much closer to each other on the Waldau in the game reserve. After the rutting season, however, both herds would separate from each other again, says Heilmann. "Of course, the procedures are not the same as in the wild. After all, the animals live in a common enclosure. But they divide themselves into different herds," explains the forestry manager.
Besides the mating calls, the stag tries to impress the female animals with its stately antlers. In addition, it paws with its front hooves and lies down in a so-called rutting pit, in which it constantly perfumes itself with its urine. This scent makes him more interesting for the ladies. Heilmann explains this with a twinkle in his eye: "When you go to the disco, you also make yourself look smart and beautiful. Just like some people use aftershave, the top dog does it with his urine."
The tactic is having an effect on the women, anyway. "The bald deer pick up the scent and are then also willing to mate during the rut." Despite all the pheromones in the air - real fights would rarely take place in the enclosure, as real competitors in the wild usually come from outside and not from the existing pack.
"In an encounter, the animals threaten each other and try to make an impression." Serious fights between opponents of equal strength are the exception, he says. "The clashing and pushing of antlers is for the purpose of measuring strength and not to injure the rival." Heilmann says that it has not yet been possible to observe whether the courtship has already been successful and whether mating has taken place. Walkers can see the results of this natural spectacle at the end of May or beginning of June. This is when the calves are placed after a gestation period of eight to nine months.
By the way: After the mating season of the red deer, the rutting season of the neighbouring fallow deer begins in about a month. If you want to feed the animals in the game enclosure, you can buy species-appropriate food at two vending machines and feed it into the enclosure via a feeding chute. The City Forester's Office asks that the used feeding cups be thrown into the containers provided so that they can be reused. "Under no circumstances should the cups be thrown into the fence," it says.
(Original text: Niklas Schröder, Translation: Mareike Graepel)