Researchers from the U.K. Natural Environment Research Council, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada and Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) found that young males who were orphaned were slow to grow antlers, a lifelong problem, and that females’ risk of death increased substantially when their mother was killed.
In certain parts of Scotland, deer are culled to control the population.
"Red deer are an iconic species in Scotland and they bring an awful lot of benefit to our biodiversity and tourism... but they've also got the potential to impact adversely on natural habitats, public safety, woodland [and] agricultural crops," said SNH wildlife operations manager Robbie Kernahan.
About 60,000 red deer are shot each year as a way of managing the population.
"25,000 of those are stags, 25,000 are hinds and the remaining 10,000 are calves," Kernahan said.
According to Kernahan it makes sense for deer hunters to avoid leaving orphans.
"When the stalking season [for females] opens in October we still have quite a lot of calves that are not exclusively nutritionally dependent on their mother but certainly socially," he said. "As such if you were to shoot a red deer hind without taking the calf there are obvious concerns that that calf would not be able to survive... because they rely on that maternal link to get them through the winter."
"It's strength to the arm of what we've been saying in the past. It does make strong moral sense to make sure that calves don't suffer or struggle," he said.