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Roe deer

The roe became extinct in England during the 18th century, but survived in woodland in parts of the Central and North West Highlands. Many populations have been reintroduced in England and there are now an estimated 500,000 roe deer in Britain.


Roe deer (Capreolus capreolus)



Roe are mainly woodland deer, but in recent years the rise in numbers has led them to colonising more open areas such as rank heather, scrub and agricultural ground.


The mating season, known as the rut, comes in late July and August. Peculiarly among British deer, there is a delay in the implantation of the fertilised egg in the female. This is believed to be nature's way of postponing birth until favourable conditions exist for the kids. Kids are born in the May or June following the rut. Twins are common and there are sometimes triplets. Newly born young can sometimes be seen lying among bracken, bramble or grasses. They have not been abandoned but simply left, camouflaged by their spotted coats. The doe will be close by and will return to suckle them several times a day.


The most important part of the year for the roe buck is when they establish their territories at the end of April to May.


Roe 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.


Natural predators, such as bears, lynx and wolves, are now extinct in Britain. When deer numbers become too great for their habitat to support them, they can have a detrimental impact on plant species diversity and can cause damage to agriculture and forestry. They can also suffer from sickness and disease. Today, Forestry Commission wildlife rangers are managing deer populations sensitively and humanely.


The roe buck is readily identified by the short antlers and markings on the head. The roe doe is smaller in size than the buck. In summer, the adult coat will be rich, foxy red. In winter, the adult coat becomes a greyish fawn colour, flecked with yellow. The rump patch becomes white and expands to form a large disc when they are excited or alarmed.

How we manage our woods

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

Last updated: 22nd June 2017

Vital statistics

Height: males 63-74 cm
roe deer

Useful sites

England's Woods and Forests are cared for by Forest Enterprise England, an agency of the Forestry Commission.