In all deer species (except the reindeer), only the male has antlers. Antlers are shed each Spring and immediately a new set starts to grow, taking 16 weeks to reach full size in August. Antlers are made of a type of dense and very solid bone and whilst growing they are covered with a hairy skin called ‘velvet’ which is shed when the antlers have reached their full size for that year.
The buck or stag uses his antlers to fight other males during the mating season, known as the rut, which lasts for three weeks in October. The ‘rut’ is the period of time when antlered ungulates mate. During the rut (also known as the rutting period), male ungulates often rub their antlers or horns on trees or shrubs, fight with each other and pursue estrus females by their scent.
Fallow deer (Dama dama) is a ruminant mammal belonging to the family Cervidae. They are now found throughout much of England and parts of Wales and locally in Scotland and Northern Ireland. Fallow deer were probably first brought to England by the Romans, however, the main introduction was by the Normans in the eleventh century for hunting purposes. Today, Fallow deer are easily tamed and are increasing in number and distributing slowly throughout the parks and forests of Britain. There are now more deer in the South East today than there were 500 years ago. The Fallow deer was a native of most of Europe during the last Interglacial. The population of Fallow deer pre-breeding season is estimated to be 128,000.
Fallow Deer Description
Male fallow deer (bucks) have ‘palmate’ antlers – a wider and flatter spread with less distinct tines than the red deer, these are broad and shaped like a shovel. Female fallow deer (does) do not have antlers. Young fallow deer are called ‘fawns’.
Bucks measure around 140 – 160 centimetres in length, 90 – 100 centimetres in shoulder height and weigh around 60 – 85 kilograms. Does measure 130 – 150 centimetres in length, have a shoulder height of 75 – 85 centimetres and weigh 30 – 50 kilograms. Fawns are born in springtime and measure around 30 centimetres in height and weigh around 4.5 kilograms.
Fallow deer are very variable in colour, with four main varieties, ‘common’, ‘menil’, ‘melanistic’ and ‘albinistic’. The common form has a bright chestnut coat with white mottles that are most pronounced in summer with a much darker, drab grey-brown coat in the winter. The albinistic is the lightest coloured, almost white. Common and menil are darker and melanistic is very dark, even black.
Most herds consist of the common form but have menil form and melanistic form animals amongst them. Fallow deer have yellow-white undersides, white spots and a black line that runs along the back to the tip of the tail. The spots become less prominent or disappear completely in winter.
Fallow Deer Habitats
Fallow deer are grazing animals. Their preferred habitat is mixed woodland and open grassland. Fallow deer typically occupy deciduous woodland with open patches. They are also kept semi-domesticated in parks.
Fallow Deer Diet
Fallow deer are grazers and pure vegetarians/herbivores. Their diet consists of grass, young shoots, leaves, bark, heather, sweet chestnuts, acorns, cereals, herbs, berries and acorns.
Fallow Deer Behaviour
During the rut, bucks will spread out and females move between them, at this time of year fallow deer are relatively ungrouped compared to the rest of the year when they try to stay together in groups of up to 150 individuals.
Fallow Deer Reproduction
When competing for access to females, males ‘display’ by groaning, thrashing their antlers and by walking alongside their opponent. Fighting occurs if both stags are evenly matched and involves wrestling and clashing of antlers.
Does give birth to a single fawn after a gestation period of 31 – 32 weeks (around 8 months). The Fallow doe usually leaves the herd to search for a private hiding place to give birth. After the fawn is born, usually in May or June, it remains in its hiding place (in bushes or undergrowth). The doe returns every four hours to feed it until it is about four months old, when it joins the herd. The fawn is weaned after 7 – 9 months. The life span of the Fallow deer is about 12 – 16 years.
Fallow Deer Conservation Status
The Persian fallow deer (Dama dama mesopotamica) is classified as Endangered, however, other subspecies are not considered to be at threat.
Muntjac deer (Muntiacus reevesi), also known as Reeves Muntjac, Chinese Muntjac and Barking Deer, belong to the genus Muntiacus. Muntjac are the oldest known deer, appearing 15 – 35 million years ago, with remains found in Miocene deposits in France and Germany. Introduced into Britain from China in 1900, many escaped from their private estates and are now well established in southern England, where they colonize woodland and dense scrubland. Muntjac deer were introduced to Woburn Park, Bedfordshire and to parks in Hertfordshire and Northamptonshire.
Muntjac deer are of great interest in evolutionary studies because of their dramatic chromosome variations and the recent discovery of new species.
The pre-breeding season population of Muntjac deer is estimated 128,000 and increasing.
Muntjac Deer Description
The males, or bucks, have short backward curving antlers (maximum length 15 centimetres) which are shed in May or June and re-grow to full size by October or November. These are not used as weapons, however, the elongated, protruding tusk-like teeth of the male can be used for this purpose.
In common with all deer species except the reindeer, the female muntjac deer do not have antlers, they have tufts of hair in place of antlers.
Female Muntjac Deer have tusks, however, these are shorter than the males. Males also have a V-shaped marking running from their forehead to their nose.
The Muntjac deers body length can measure up to 90 centimetres in length, about the same size as an adult fox. They have a shoulder height of 45 – 52 centimetres and weigh around 12 – 15 kilograms. Muntjacs are small deer, with dark red-brown fur and white patches on the chin, throat and rump.
Muntjac Deer Habitats
The Muntjac deers preferred habitats are Woodland, scrub and undisturbed gardens.
Muntjac Deer Diet
Muntjac deers are browsing mammals and feed on shrubs, shoots, grass, fruit and shoots. They sometimes cause damage by stripping bark from trees.
Muntjac Deer Behaviour
Active by day or night, muntjac deer are mostly seen at dusk. They utter loud barks over prolonged periods and equally loud distress calls. They are mainly solitary animals, however, they may be seen in family groups.
Muntjac Deer Reproduction
Muntjac deer have no seasonal rut and mating can take place at any time of year. However, this behaviour is retained by populations introduced to temperate countries. The gestation period is 210 days and the fawn is weaned after 8 weeks. Muntjac deer have a life span of up to 19 years.
Muntjac Deer Conservation Status
This species of Muntjac deer is not considered to be endangered.
Red deer (Cervus elaphus), commonly called ‘hart’ in the United Kingdom, are Britain’s largest native land mammal and, together with the roe deer, are our only native deer species. All other deer species have been introduced. A male red deer is called a ‘Stag’ and a female Red deer is called a ‘Hind’. Although red deer are native to Britain, they can be found in many other parts of the world.
The Red Deer inhabits most of Europe, the Caucasus Mountains region, Asia Minor and parts of western and central Asia. It also inhabits the Atlas Mountains region between Algeria and Tunisia in northwestern Africa, being the only species of deer to inhabit Africa. Red Deer have been introduced to other areas including New Zealand and Argentina. In many parts of the world the meat (venison) from Red Deer is widely used as a food source.
Although at one time Red Deer were rare in some areas, they were never close to extinction. Reintroduction and conservation efforts, especially in the United Kingdom, have resulted in an increase of Red Deer populations, while other areas, such as North Africa, have continued to show a population decline.
In Britain the pre-breeding season population is estimated to be 316,000.
Red Deer Description
Red Deer are ruminants, characterized by an even number of toes on each hoof and a four-chambered stomach.The average male red deer has a body length of 210 centimetres, a shoulder height of 120 centimetres and weighs 295 kilograms (650 pounds).
A female Red deer is slightly smaller and more lightly built, measuring 107 centimetres at shoulder height.
A stag reaches its maximum size at the age of 6 – 7 years.
Red Deer tend to be reddish-brown in their summer coats. Male Red deer grow branching antlers and have long neck hair in their winter coat. The male deer of the British Isles and Norway tend to have the thickest and most noticeable neck manes, compared to the other subspecies.
Male deer of all subspecies, however, tend to have stronger and thicker neck muscles than female deer, which may give them an appearance of having neck manes. During the autumn, all Red Deer subspecies grow a thicker coat of hair which helps to insulate them during the winter. Autumn is also when some of the stags grow their neck manes.
By the time summer begins, the heavy winter coat has been shed. The Red deers are known to rub against trees and other objects to help remove hair from their bodies. Red Deer 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.
Only the stags have antlers which start growing in the spring and are shed each year, usually at the end of winter. Antlers are made of bone which can grow at a rate of 2.5 centimetres (1 inch) a day. A soft covering known as ‘velvet’ helps to protect newly forming antlers in the spring.
Red Deer Habitats
The Red deer is essentially a forest animal, but mainly found in Britain on the moorlands of Scotland and Devon. Red Deer in Britain generally spend their winters in lower altitudes and more wooded terrain.
Red Deer Diet
Being a ruminant animal, the Red deer eats its food in two stages similar to camels, goats and cattle. The animal digests plant-based food by initially softening it within the its first stomach, known as the rumen, then regurgitating the semi-digested mass, now known as cud, and chewing it again. The process of again chewing the cud to further break down plant matter and stimulate digestion is called ‘ruminating’. The Red deers main diet is grass, young heather shoots, moss, young leaves, shoots of trees and in the winter they will strip bark from trees.
Red Deer Behaviour
During the summer, red deer migrate to higher elevations where food supplies are greater for the calving season. Red deer are active both day and night, however, activity peaks at dawn and dusk.
Red Deer Reproduction
The gestation period for the female Red deer is 9 months (33 – 34 weeks). A single calf is born (very rarely twins) in May or June and lies hidden in the undergrowth, well camouflaged. The calf is weaned after 9 – 12 months and reaches sexual maturity after one and a half years. The life span of a red deer is 25 years.
Red Deer Conservation Status
Red deer are not considered to be endangered in the UK, and in some areas, they are over-populated and may be culled. Other red deer subspecies are listed on the 2000 Red List.
Alashan wapiti (C.e. alashanicus)
MacNeill’s red deer (C.e. macneilli)
Tibetan red deer (C.e. wallichi) are classified as Data Deficient.
Atlas deer (C.e. barbarus) are classified as Lower Risk.
Bactrian deer (C.e. bactrianus) are listed as Vulnerable.
Corsican red deer (C.e. corsicanus)
Kashmir red deer (C.e. hanglu)
Yarkand deer (C.e. yarkandensis) are listed as Endangered.
Roe deer (Capreolus capreolus), became extinct in most of England during the 18th century, however, during the 19th century they were reintroduced. Before 1960 they were treated as vermin due to the damage they cause to the forestry industry. Roe deer are found throughout Europe, but they are absent from Ireland, much of Portugal, Greece and large parts of England and Wales. They also inhabit Asia.
Sightings of Roe deer have become more common in back gardens in outer suburbs. One of the latest sightings of Roe deer was in a back garden in Brentwood, Essex.
The Roe Deer is quite a small deer, with a body length of 95 – 135 centimetres (3.1 – 4.4 feet), a shoulder height of 65 – 75 centimetres (2.1 – 2.5 feet) and weighing 15 – 30 kilograms (33 – 66 pounds).
The Roe Deer has rather short, erect antlers and a reddish body with a grey face. Its hide is golden red in summer, darkening to brown or even black in winter, with lighter undersides and a white rump patch.
The Roe Deers tail is very short (2 – 3 centimetres (0.8 – 1.2 inches) and barely visible. Only the males have antlers, which are lost during winter, but which re-grow in time for the mating season. The first and second set of antlers are unbranched and short (5 – 12 centimetres (2 – 4.7 inches), while older bucks in good conditions develop antlers up to 20 – 25 centimetres (8 – 10 inches) long with 2 or 3, rarely even four, points. When the males antlers begin to regrow, they are covered in a thin layer of velvet-like fur which disappears later, after the hairs blood supply is lost.
Males may speed up the process by rubbing their antlers on trees, so that their antlers are hard and stiff for the duels during the mating season. Roe Deer are the only type of deer that can regrow their antlers during winter.
When alarmed, a Roe deer will bark a sound much like a dog and flash out its white rump patch. Rump patches differ between male and female, with the white rump patches heart-shaped on females and kidney-shaped on males.
Roe Deer Habitats
The Roe Deer is primarily crepuscular (animals that are primarily active during twilight, at dawn and at dusk). Roe deer are very quick and graceful, living in woods, although it may venture to grasslands and sparse forests. They prefer woodland, particularly with open patches of ground and with access to the edges of fields.
Roe Deer Diet
Roe deer feed mainly on grass, leaves, berries and young shoots. It particularly likes very young, tender grass with a high moisture content such as grass that has received rain the day before. Roe deer will not generally venture in to a field that either has livestock in it such as sheep and cattle, this is because the livestock will make the grass very unclean.
Roe Deer Behaviour
Male roe deer ‘bark’ and make a low grunting noise or make a high pitched wolf-like whine when attracting mates during the breeding season, often luring multiple female Roe deer into their territory. Both male and female roe deer are solitary and are highly territorial, with clearly defined boundaries. Both male and female Roe deer scent mark. These scents give information about the sex, age and dominance of the individual.
Roe Deer Reproduction
Roe deer are polygamous which means they have more than one mating partner. Roe Deer males clash over territory in early summer and mate in early fall. During courtship, when the males chase the females, they often flatten the underbrush leaving behind areas of the forest in the shape of a figure eight called ‘roe rings’. Males may also use their antlers to shovel around fallen foliage and dirt as a way of attracting a mate. Roebucks enter rutting during the July and August breeding season.
Female Roe deers are monoestrous (having only one breeding season a year, typically in spring) and after delayed implantation, usually give birth the following June, after a 10 month gestation period. They typically give birth to two spotted kids of opposite sexes. The kids remain hidden in long grass from predators until they are ready to join the rest of the herd. They are suckled by their mother several times a day for around three months.
Roe deer adults will often abandon their young if they sense or smell that an animal or human has been near it. Young female roe deer can begin to reproduce when they are around 16 months old. Roe deer have a life span of up to 10 – 12 years.
Roe Deer Conservation Status
Roe deer are not an endangered species, despite the fact that up to 90 per cent die during their first year. This is due to heavy predation on fawns by foxes and by lynx in mainland Europe. Starvation and respiratory infections also take their toll.