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Fallow deer

Fallow deer can be found in most counties in England and Wales, and there are large populations in pockets spread across Scotland. The species was introduced by the Normans and quickly became established in the wild in hunting forests and chases. There are no really accurate estimates, but there must be tens of thousands of fallow deer in Britain.

Name

Fallow deer (Dama dama)

Lifestyle

Habitat

Fallow deer live in isolated groups in the forest. They range over large areas and spend only a short time in one area. But they can cause a great deal of damage by feeding on buds and leaves, and they will also strip bark from trees.

Breeding

Young fallow start breeding when they are about 18 months old. The mating season, or rut, starts in late September and peaks in mid October. Usually, the doe gives birth to a single fawn between late May - mid June. The fawn is weaned by October.

Development

Both sexes live in single sex groups for most of the year, only getting together at the time of the rut. Young bucks will stay with the doe herds until they are 18 months old, when they leave to join the buck herds.

Diet

Fallow deer are herbivores and graze all types of ground vegetation. They also browse shrub layers in a wood, and the growing shoots and leaves of holly and beech trees. Fallow deer inhabit woodland both for food and shelter, but they like to feed in arable fields on root crops such as carrots, sugar beet, parsnips or potatoes.

Threats

Natural predators, such as bears, lynx and wolves, are now extinct in Britain. Today, in Forestry Commission woodlands, wildlife rangers control deer populations in woods to stop them suffering from sickness and disease, and to prevent them damaging and killing young trees.

Identification

There are different varieties of fallow deer in Britain. The most common variety has a white spotted chestnut coat, with a white rump patch and a fairly long tail. A mature buck has a very prominent Adam's apple and a very obvious brush of hair under its belly.

How we manage our woods

Fallow deer range widely and the Forestry Commission is working closely with neighbouring landowners to manage deer populations. 

Fallow deer close up

Vital statistics

Height: about 1 m at the shoulder
Weight: Males, 85-90 kg, females 50-60 kg
Lifespan: 14 - 15 years in the wild

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