A Lewis school teacher captured a recent image of what at first glance appears to be two red deer hugging.
However, Susy Macaulay Local Government Reporter for the Press & Journal Inverness got in touch with BDS to find out what was really going on.
Charles Smith Jones commented on the picture:
"What a wonderful picture - although of course, the red deer stags are not hugging! At this time of year when stags are producing their new antlers, the new growth is very sensitive and they are careful not to damage it. So, instead of using their antlers for asserting themselves, they will ‘box’ with their front hooves. This is often little more than play fighting or gentle bickering but can be rather more aggressive at times.
The furry skin called ‘velvet’ which covers the growing antler is clearly visible in the photograph. Later on, when the antlers are no longer composed of living tissue but have become dead bone, the velvet is rubbed off and the antlers provide an important means of establishing dominance during the rut. This takes place in the autumn with a far greater likelihood of serious fighting.
Red deer hinds will box as well; this helps them to establish pecking orders within the herd."