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FALLOW DEER

NATURE IN CONTROL

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Information about Fallow Deer

Darma Darma

The Fallow Deer is considered to be medium in size. They have a light brown coat with white spots. They are one of the few species of deer that don’t lose their spots a few months after birth. There are some sub species out there that are actually all white and they have dark eyes. This isn’t due to Albinism though as some people think. They are very rare to find.

The antlers of these deer are very wide and they can easily measure 20 inches in width. It takes about three years for the males to develop them in this size. Full grown males weigh from 130 to 200 pounds. Full grown females weight from 60 to 90 pounds. They are extremely fast animals thanks to their powerful legs. Yet their legs are quite short and that makes for  very interesting overall body design.

These elegant deer have long been prized as ornamental species and their history is closely linked to that of deer parks. Fallow deer were first brought to Britain from the western Mediterranean during the Roman period when they were kept within enclosures known as ‘vivaria’. Genetic analysis has shown that these Roman fallow deer went extinct in Britain following the collapse of the Roman Empire. It was not until the 11th century that fallow deer were reintroduced, this time from the eastern Mediterranean. Initially, they were kept in parks as rare exotica but gradually their populations increased and they became an important source of venison for aristocratic tables.  As the fashion for deer parks declined in the 15th century, many parks fell into disrepair and these medieval escapee deer are the foundation of the free-living population in Britain today.

Whilst non-native, fallow deer are considered naturalised and are locally abundant and increasing. They are widespread in England and Wales, but patchy in Scotland, inhabiting mature broadleaf woodland with under-storey, open coniferous woodland, and open agricultural land. They prefer to graze grasses although they will take trees and dwarf shrub shoots in autumn and winter.

Population density and habitat influence both group size and the degree of sexual segregation. Groups of adult males and females, usually with young, remain apart for most of the year in large woodlands, only coming together to breed. Sexes freely mix in large herds throughout the year in open, agricultural environments.

Damage caused by browsing of tree shoots and agricultural crops puts fallow deer in conflict with farmers and foresters and their ability to reach very high densities can result in high local levels of damage. Conversely, many country and forest estates can gain substantial revenue from recreational stalking and/or venison production. Fallow deer are also farmed for their venison and are one of the most important ornamental park species in the UK. Regardless of context, fallow deer populations require careful management to maintain health and quality and ensure a sustainable balance with their environment.

Distribution

It is easy to see the Fallow Deer as they tend to feed out in the open grassy areas. However, they prefer to have wooded areas around where they can rest and hide from danger. They tend to only live in areas where there is plenty of food in the summer and a decent chance of finding it in the winter months.

Behaviour

The Fallow Deer are very social animals, especially with the females. They will form big herds. If food supplies start to become scarce they will split into smaller groups as this will increase their chance of survival. They males are loosely associated with the herds, coming and going. It isn’t until mating season that they really start to keep an eye on the females around them.

Feeding

Green grass is the main food source for the Fallow Deer. They will spend hours grazing and finding the best grasses. They tend to be somewhat picky about what they will consume. They will look for green grass first but if they can’t find it then they will settle for the brown grass. It is believed the green grass is more appealing due to the amount of moisture it contains.

They will also strip bark form the trees to consume when their normal eating items are hard to find. They can often be seen eating in the early morning and then again as the sun goes down.

Reproduction

Mating for the Fallow Deer extends from late September until late November. The males will become very aggressive with each other during this period of them. They will section of areas that they will fight for the right to mate in with the females. It is common though for a buck to follow a doe that is ready for mating through various territories, regardless of who he has to battle in order to continue following her.

Even though the males are ready for mating when they are a couple of years old, they average four years of age before they are able to do so. It takes approximately that long for them to develop the antlers to attract females, to fight dominant males with, and to have the courage to fight with other males instead of walking away.

For the females, it isn’t uncommon for them to have their first fawn when they are only about two years of age. The young fawns are born about 240 days after mating takes place. They are born either in May or June of the following year. Twins are quite common for this species of deer but single births are still the highest percentage.

They can live for about 20 years in the wild, and 25 when they are raised in captivity.

FALLOW DEER

Does (the girls)

Breeding
Single fawn: Born during June and the first week of July. Exceptionally twins born..
Productivity: In favourable areas most yearling does breed. A fawn produced annually thereafter.
Weaning: Of fawns at 4 months. Fawns may continue to suckle beyond this period but are not dependent on milk.
Behaviour: Hinds break away from single-sex herds to give birth. During the first month or so the fawn will be left alone, the mother returning periodically to feed it, until the fawn can follow the herd.
Vocalisation: With fallow the doe is the more vocal of the sexes. Does with fawns give a short bark as an alarm call. She will also use a variety of squeaks and bleats to communicate with her fawn throughout the year.
Shoulder height: 73 - 91 cm

Bucks (the boys)

Antler development
Fallow are the only British deer with palmate antlers in mature bucks.
End Apr: Mature, well-conditioned bucks cast antlers.
May – Jun: Yearling bucks (prickets) cast.
Aug: Mature bucks are first to clean velvet from antlers.
End Sept: All bucks, including prickets, should be clean of velvet.
Mating
Bucks may display a variety of rutting behaviour. Bucks may defend a rutting stand which is used to attract females and which is marked out by thrashing trees, wallowing and scrape marking. Bucks advertise their presence by constantly moving around in the area of the stand whilst groaning. The same rutting stands may be used each year. Alternatively, in areas with high numbers of females, bucks may go in search of groups of does or they may congregate with other bucks at leks.
Shoulder height: 84-94 cm.

Open Seasons - when Fallow may be culled 

 

       England                     Wales/Scotland

Bucks

  Aug 1 – Apr 30               Aug 1 – Apr 30

 

Does

  Nov 1 – Mar 31             Oct 21 – Feb 15

Interesting facts:

  • At 2 years of age, male deer start to develop antlers.

  • Fallow deer do much of their feeding in open, grassy areas but require tree cover and undergrowth for shelter and winter food.

  • Fallow deer have very sharp vision. They can see the minutest details at great distances.

  • The call of the Fallow deer is called “groaning,” and it sounds a lot like burping!

  • The species tends to separate into two groups: one consists of females and their youngsters and the other consists of the juvenile and adult males. The two groups will mix freely but get close only during the breeding season.

  • The Fallow deer have two different colour phases; a summer phase and a winter phase.

Stalking

There are no natural predators of deer in Britain. Therefore, to maintain a stable and healthy population of deer a cull of some of them is required each year. This is not random however, and a deer stalker will have carried out a population count/census to determine the age and sex profile of those to be culled. So then during the correct deer season, barren, genetically odd or very old animals are taken. This selection results in a balanced pyramid profile with a few healthy older animals of each sex at the top and with increasing numbers of each sex down to the yearlings at the bottom.

The males with outstanding antlers are sometimes referred to as trophy animals, and as part of the cull, can be shot as part of a purchased sporting package to bring income to help with the management of the deer population as a whole. If population reduction is required, more females will be culled. If a population increase is required, only a selected few will be culled.

Deerstalkers have the humane despatch of the deer at the forefront of their mind (right behind safe shooting practice), and there are many scenarios which prevent a shot from being taken, such as no safe backstop, no clear shot, the deer does not stop, there are other deer behind the chosen deer, the deer which is visible is out of season, it is not an appropriate animal to cull, it is a good healthy specimen which would be worth keeping to spawn future generations of healthy deer or it is a trophy animal which could bring in much needed funds. This means that not every stalk results in a killed deer, and so it must be borne in mind that elements of selection can result in a "walk with a rifle" which in itself is rewarding as lots can be learnt from the stalker in the process of stalking deer.

Injured or sick animals are given priority at any time of year whereby a humane exemption in law allows a person to humanely kill any deer out of season or at night "by any reasonable means", if it is so seriously injured or so seriously diseased that to kill it would be an act of mercy.

A rifle is used that complies with the minimum requirements of the Deer Act (1991) in England and Wales or in the Deer (Scotland) Act 1996 in calibre and ballistic performance. Not only are there differences in the law regarding the calibre and ballistic performance between Scotland and England & Wales, (popular calibres are .243, .270, .303, .308, 6.5×55mm, .25-06, and .30-06) there are differences in the deer open seasons too. In recent times the use of sound moderators has greatly increased as a health and safety measure.

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