The Roe Deer, also called the European roe deer, western roe deer, chevreuil, or simply roe, is a species of small to medium size deer found in the cold Eurasian regions. These deer are commonly seen in zoological parks from around the world, and are also hunted for their meat (venison) that is known to be tasty.
Table of Contents
Roe Deer Scientific Classification
Table Of Content
Table of Contents
Size: They stand at the height of 60 to 75 cm (2.1–2.5 ft) at the shoulders, with a body length of around 95–135 cm (3.1–4.4 ft).
Weight: With a light body and a small skull (head), they can weigh anything between 15 and 35 kg (33 and 77 lb), depending on the size.
Fur: The adults display a reddish brown coat during summer that becomes grey, pale brown or even black in the winter months. They also have a characteristic black mustache stripe and a white chin.
Tail: Roe deer has a very small tail, so short that it is often mistaken to be tailless.
Antlers (Horns): Healthy males, in good conditions, develop antlers with a length of up to 20–25 cm (8–10 in), with two or three, or rarely, even four points.
Sexual Dimorphism: The sexes do not display many noticeable differences except that the rump patches on the female are heart-shaped, and on males, kidney-shaped.
This deer usually live for about ten years in the wild, and almost 15 in captivity.
The range of the roe deer is widespread in Europe, beginning from the Mediterranean to Scandinavia, from Ireland to the Caucasus mountain range, and east to northern regions of Iran and Iraq.
Roe deer are typically seen in the coniferous, open, deciduous, or mixed woodlands as well as in moorland, and suburbs with large gardens.
During the summer months, the male roe deer usually lead a solitary life, wandering around alone. However, the females with newborn offspring live in groups, especially during this season. During winter, almost all live in family groups.
The composition of these groups largely vary. In forest biotopes, the members of a group can be anything between 40 and 90, whereas, in open biotopes, it can be as less as 10-15. When they are surprised, alarmed or threatened, they emit a barking sound or call, much like a dog, flashing out their white rump patch, and then jumping away at a the speed of up to 60 kmph (37 mph).
The number of members in a group depends mainly on factors like distribution and abundance of food resources, as well as cover. In summer, these animals disperse throughout their territories, while in winter, they focus mainly on the areas of foraging.
The males are territorial. Every year, during the mating season, they get involved in fights. The competition usually takes place between an adult male from one territory and a younger male that targets a neighboring territory. Such fights can lead to serious injuries and even death.
These herbivorous animals have a broad diet that varies greatly, depending on the time of year. It includes the leaves of weeds, acorns, fungi, deciduous shrubs and trees, cereals, conifers and various types of ferns.
Reproduction and Life Cycle
The breeding season, also called ‘rut’, falls between mid-July and mid-August, when the males (bucks) turn highly aggressive, vigorously defending their territories, getting engaged in fights, locking their antlers, and pushing and twisting.
The winner then mates with a female after a courtship that involves the male chasing the female (doe) for some time until the doe is ready to for mating.
After the gestation period of about ten months, the female gives birth to one to three kids in around May or June. Birth of twins is very common. The young deer are left alone during the day hours for the initial six weeks of their lives. After this period, the juveniles can stay by their mother’s side, though the reason is yet not known.
Both the male and the female fawns (young deer) disperse as they begin to attain maturity. However, females tend to stay closer to the range of their mother than the males. The young roe deer attain the age of sexual maturity typically at around 14 months.
- The development of the eggs in the mother’s womb during winter, despite their mating season is in summer, is thought to be an adaptation to prevent the birth of the baby in the harsh climatic conditions of the winter.
- Unlike the adults, the infants have spotted coats that help them to camouflage in the forest when they are left alone for about six weeks after their birth.
The enemies of the roe deer in the wild are few since their natural predators, the wolf, and the lynx, are now extinct in Britain.
Considering their static rise in population, the IUCN 3.1 has enlisted them as ‘LC’ (Least Concern).
- The roe deer became extinct in the UK except in Scotland during the 18th century, after which it was reintroduced to the rest of the country during the 19th century.
- The roe deer is the world’s only hoofed animal to have a ‘delayed implantation’ (i.e., the fertilized eggs beginning to develop only in winter).