Maral inhabits most of Europe and eastern Asia. Genetic evidence indicates that the maral as traditionally defined is a species group rather than a single species, although it remains disputed exactly how many species the group includes. It is commonly accepted that the slightly larger wapiti, native to North America and eastern parts of Asia represents a distinct species besides red deer.
Maral have different colouration based on the seasons and types of habitats, with grey or lighter colouration prevalent in the winter and a more reddish and darker coat in the summer. Maral wear a reddish-brown summer coat, and some individuals may have a few spots on the backs of their summer coats.
Length: male 1.9m; female – 1.8m.
Weight: male – 103kg; female – 75kg.
The living in herds allows the animals to eat and rest while some members survey the herd. Maral migrate seasonally in their mountainous habitats from higher alpine meadows in summer to the valley bottoms in winter.
They always return to the same places, which can be far away from each other. Migrating routes and the whereabouts of the chosen places is taught from mother to offspring. Single males can migrate up to 100 km in order to colonize new habitat. Exchange of information functions via olfactory, visual and audible signals over long and short distances.
Both the woodland areas and the plains offer the maral a great place to be able to live. They spend lots of time moving around looking for food. They do have their own established home range. The span of it can be several miles but for many of these herds the area is getting smaller and smaller. Humans continue to push into their areas along the edges, leaving less space for them.
Methods of hunting permitted for use:
- using wheel transport,
- ambush hunting, corralling,
- using dogs of hunting breeds, except for hounds
Permitted hunting tools:
Hunting firearm with a rifled barrel of caliber not less than 5 mm (but not more than 10 mm) and a chamber length of at least 39 mm (using a caliber of 5.6 mm for a rim-fire cartridge is permitted only for hunting musk deer); hunting fire smooth-bore long-barreled arms, including threaded length no more than 140 mm (only using bullet cartridges); hunting firearm combined weapons (smooth-bore and rifted gun), including with rebarreling and auxiliary rifled barrels; cold bladed hunting weapon. It is allowed to hunt for roe deer, musk deer and fallow deer using buck shot.
Antlers are grown and cast annually by males from their second year.
The antler beams of maral are larger and wider than those of sika stags. In cross-section, the bone component of the antler is thinner in maral than for sika deer, and there is a comparatively larger porous core. In maral, the brow tines usually branch closer to the coronet and are at right angles to the main antler beam. Maral also have bez tines.
Velvet antler growth starts between early September and December and is complete when the dried velvet is frayed from the hard antler between mid-January and mid-March.