Roe Deer

Shy by nature, these deer are not easy to observe. The male’s antlers are lost each autumn and then regrow up to 25 cm (10 in) long.

The smallest of the native European deer, the roe deer is unique in having almost no tail. It has a pale rump, and the rest of its coat is reddish-brown in summer and grayish-brown in winter. Fawns have a spotted coat. The antlers of the male never have more than three points apiece.

This graceful deer is found over large parts of Europe, including Britain, where it lives in forests and on farmland. The smallest type of European deer, the roe deer lives alone or in small groups. Roe deer have been able to adapt well to habitat changes brought about by human activities, and they have actually increased in number. They eat more than 1,000 plant species across their natural range. When grazing out in the open, the deer form large groups of up to 90 members in order to reduce the risks of attack. In forests, where they are more protected from predators, the deer live in smaller groups of less than 15. The roe deer are active at night and they browse on shrubs and broadleafed trees.

These deer are solitary, with both sexes occupying their own territories and only coming together to mate. This occurs in the summer, but the fertilized egg can remain in suspended animation within the female’s reproductive tract. Up to five months later, the egg finally implants into the wall of the female’s uterus, and its development begins. This means that the fawn will be born in more favourable conditions the following year. Before giving birth to her 1 or 2 young, the female roe deer chases away her offspring from the previous year.

In the breeding season, the male takes a territory and marks its boundaries by rubbing the trunks of trees with his antlers until the bark is frayed and the wood exposed. He has only 1 mate and defends her and his territory against rivals.

VITAL STATISTICS

Distribution: Occurs throughout Europe and Asia, although not present in much of England and Wales, and absent from Ireland. Their range extends eastwards all the way to Siberia.

Habitat: Woodland.

Weight: 18 – 29 kg (40 – 64 lb).

Length: 95 – 135 cm (37 – 53 in), including tail; up to 67 cm (26 in) tall.

Maturity: 14 months old.

Gestation Period: Up to 294 days; weaning occurs at 6 – 10 weeks, with fawns suckling intermittently through their first winter.

Number of Offspring: 1, occasionally 2.

Diet: Herbivorous, grazing on grass and browsing on leaves and bushes.

Lifespan: 10 – 14 years.

Colouration

This varies through the year, becoming much darker in the winter.

Rump

This area is white in colour, contrasting with the coat.

Ears

Roe deer have excellent hearing, thanks to their large, mobile ears.

Fawn

Young roe deer have white spots on the back, extending on to the flanks.

WINTER SURVIVAL

When there is snow, roe deer will pull down branches to eat, causing them to be unpopular with forestry managers.

Gallery of Roe Deer