Dispersal is an important mechanism in population dynamics with a sparse empirical basis. Environmental causes of dispersal may work directly or indirectly. In a population with documented negative density-dependent male dispersal, we investigated if the effect of density on dispersal was indirectly mediated through body mass. We analysed the probability of dispersal in 170 juvenile red deer males in Snillfjord municipality, Norway, during a 20-year period of rapid population growth (1977–1997). Body mass and dispersal propensity were not related. Thus, changes in population density act directly on dispersal and are not affected by body mass. Body mass-dependent dispersal occurs in species with strong antagonistic interactions and a high cost of dispersal. Our result suggests that the cost of dispersal in male red deer is low in terms of energy expenditure and survival. We conclude that the effect of body mass on dispersal is likely to vary with mating system and cost of dispersal.