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Roe Deer

Latin Name: Capreolus Capreolus

Roe deer are native to Britain, having been present since before the Mesolithic period (6000 to 10000 years b.p.). However forest clearance and over-hunting led to them becoming extinct in England by during the 18th century, but they remained in wooded patches in Scotland. Several reintroductions during Victorian times and their subsequent, natural spread aided by an increase in woodland and forest planting in the 20th century has meant that roe deer have become widespread and abundant today. Before 1960 they were treated as vermin due to the damage they can cause to forestry.

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They are small and elegant. They have a white buff rump patch, with short 'tush' in females. Black nose and moustache with a white chin.  Their coat varies from a sandy to reddish brown in the summer and in winter they can be grey, pale brown or occasionally black. They moult in spring. Their antlers, which grow in winter, have no more than 3 points (tines) on each and are short less than 30cm in length. Antlers are shed in the autumn. Bounding gait when alarmed. Fawns are born in Spring and is brown in colour with rows of white spots on its back and flanks.

Animal Facts

In Britain: All Year

Life Span: Max: 16 years. Bucks rarely exceed 5 years, Does 6 to 7 years. Heavy mortality at and shortly after birth and during first winter.

Statistics: Adult Size. Weight 10-25kg, 60-75cm at shoulder (bucks - males slightly larger than does - females).

Habitat: Woodland and forest, preferably with open patches of ground and will access to edges of fields. They may occupy fields when at high densities. 

Food: Browsers, actively selecting different food types such as herbs, brambles, ivy, heather, bilberry & coniferous tree shoots. They are fussy eaters.

Breeding: May to June. Up to 3, usually 1 or 2 kids. Gestation period. 9 months (4 months of no embryonic growth followed by 5 months of foetal growth). Although mating occurs in August the fertilised egg does not implant and grow until January. This is thought to be an adaptation to avoid giving birth during harsh northern winters. The fawns are weaned after 6-10 weeks.

Conservation Status

Least Concern

Distribution: Common and widespread. UK Distribution. Throughout Scotland and England except parts of Kent and the Midlands. Invading Wales from England. They are not found in Ireland in the wild.

Behaviour: Both males and females are solitary individuals and very territorial having clearly defined boundaries. They scent mark. They have a very good sense of smell and hearing, when alarmed they will bark. They are active throughout the whole 24-hour day but make more use of open spaces during the hours of darkness. Peak times of activity are at dawn and dusk. Long periods are spent "lying up", which is where they lie down to ruminate between feeding bouts.

The rut, or breeding season, occurs between mid-July to mid-August. Bucks become aggressive and maintain exclusive territories around one or more does just before this period. Fights between bucks can result in serious injury or death, the winner taking over the losers territory or attendant doe. Males usually mate with several females and females mating with several males has also been observed. Courtship involves chasing between the buck and doe for some time until the doe is ready to mate. During the rut the Doe makes a high-pitched piping call to attract a buck who makes a rasping noise as he courts the doe.

Conservation Status: They are not endanger, despite the fact that up to 90 per cent die during their first year due to predation on fawns by foxes. Starvation and respiratory infections also take their toll.


See Also

Deer Topic Index

Where to Photograph Deer in the UK 

Photographing deer

Wikipedia - Roe Deer

Roe Deer Research

British Deer Society

Deer Commission for Scotland


By: Tracey Park Section: Wildlife Key:
Page Ref: roe_deer Topic: Deer Last Updated: 03/2010

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