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Roe Deer , Capreolus capreolus

The roe is one of the two species of truly native deer of the British Isles, the other being the red deer. Records of them date nearly 6,000 years.. They are strongly associated with woodlands and have increased in both population and distribution with the increase in woodland planting in the 20th century and strategic reintroductions in Victorian times. Previously, roe deer suffered an almost catastrophic decline due to over-hunting and deforestation. Roe deer are particularly associated with the edges of woodlands and forests. They are also found in areas with copses, scrub and hedgerows and use agricultural fields in these areas too. They are increasingly entering areas closer to our towns and cities as they take advantage of more urban habitats.

Roe deer are solitary, but may form small groups in winter. They are active throughout the 24-hour period but make more use of open spaces during the hours of darkness in populations experiencing frequent disturbance. Peak times of activity are at dawn and dusk. Long periods are spent ‘lying up’ where the deer lies down to ruminate between feeding bouts. Roe vary in coat colour throughout the year, being most distinguishable in the summer when their coats are bright rusty red. In winter, their coats turn a dull, slate grey colour. Roe deer have large black eyes, noses, and mouths surrounded by white/pale areas. They have large ears. Both sexes have a prominent white rump and no visible tail. Females (does) have a small ‘tush’ or tuft of hair similar to a tail at the base of the rump patch during the winter.

Their diet is varied and includes buds and leaves of deciduous trees and shrubs, bramble, rose, ivy, herbs, conifers, ferns, heather and grasses.

The rut, or breeding season, occurs between mid-July to mid-August. Bucks become aggressive and maintain exclusive territories around one or more does prior to the rut. Fights between bucks can result in serious injury or death with the winner taking over the loser’s territory or attendant doe. Courtship involves chasing between the buck and doe for some time until the doe is ready to mate. After mating , implantation is delayed until late December with two or three young being born the following May. The young fawns are suckled for six – ten weeks and will stay with their mother until the following summer.

Roe are often seen as both a positive and negative influence in the countryside. They can cause damage to young woodlands and agricultural crops through browsing, however many landowners and rural industries utilise the stalking of roe deer and the sale of venison as a substantial supplementary financial income. Roe deer may now number as many as 500,000, and are increasing.  Threats in the wild are few, as their natural predators, the wolf and the lynx, are now extinct in Britain. Young fawns may fall prey to foxes or eagles, but most casualties are from traffic or farm machinery. Many young fawns will not survive the cold of their first winter, but those that do may live up to ten years in the wild.


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