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Roe deer

Roe deer are native to Britain and are the most widespread deer in the country. They are relatively small, about the size of a goat, which gives them their Latin name meaning ‘little goat’. They have sandy red-brown fur in summer and rather grey-brown fur in winter. Females have a whitish patch on their rump, which is the shape of an inverted heart, whereas males have a kidney-shaped patch. They have a very small tail that looks just like a tuft of fur and have distinctive black noses and white chins. The males have short antlers, rarely longer than 25cm, with a maximum of three points each. When cleaning their newly grown antlers, roe deer can sometimes damage young trees by vigorously rubbing them along the trunk and branches. Roe deer differ from other deer in Britain, as they tend to be solitary animals.

Shoulder height: 63 – 69cm
Weight: 18 – 27kg
Lifespan: Up to 20 years

Reproduction

Roe deer mate in late July and August, two or three months earlier than other deer in Britain. The females often give birth to twins in May or June the following year. The young have a distinct line of white spots along their back and can totter around about one hour after birth. They usually lie hidden in the undergrowth for the first week until they are strong enough to accompany their mothers.

Diet

Bramble, oak, ash, wild rose and grasses in summer. Heather, acorns, ivy, ferns and coniferous trees in winter.

Habitat

Mostly woodland with low vegetation and clearings.

Predators

Occasionally foxes, eagles and wildcats.

Threats

Roe deer are hunted for their meat. Where roe and muntjac compete, muntjac are more likely to succeed.

Status & conservation

Native and widespread

Population size & distribution

GB population 500,000 (Scotland, 350,000; England, 150,000). The population has continuously increased over the last 25 years. They are present from west Kent to Cornwall in southern England, and in Essex, Norfolk, Suffolk, Gloucestershire and spreading into the Midlands. Roe deer have recently appeared in Wales, but are absent from Ireland, Isle of Wight and most of the Scottish islands.

Did you know?

In winter, when males have shed their antlers, it can be difficult to tell male and female roe deer apart. The best way is by looking at markings on the rump. Females have a white patch of fur the shape of an ‘ace of spades’, whereas males have a kidney-shaped patch.

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