Western Roe deer, European Roe deer
The Roe deer is a little deer that has a long neck. In winter its color ranges from dark brown to grayish-brown. It has a large white caudal patch. In summer, their color is reddish to red-brown. Male deer develop thick skin on their heads, necks and the anterior part of the trunk. The tops of their heads are brown or gray with the metatarsal glands being brown or dark brown. These deer molt in spring and again in autumn. Their young, called kids, are spotted. They have antlers which are shed each year during October and November, re-growing immediately afterwards. The males are slightly bigger than the females, with tuberculate, three tined antlers and well-defined basal rosettes. Their hooves are short and narrow with well-developed lateral digits.
The Roe deer lives throughout Asia Minor and Europe (but not in the islands of Sardinia and Corsica) Lebanon, Israel, Ireland and in the eastern edge of Eastern Europe. They favor forest steppe as well as small insular forests within croplands, as well as high-grass meadows that have some shrubs. They like cutovers and burns in forestlands and croplands for the purpose of revegetation.
Habits and lifestyle
Roe deer are solitary or they live in family groups of a female and her offspring, during the summer months. In the winter, almost all of them live in family groups, being the basis for social organization. In the summer, the deer are spread throughout the territory, while in winter they focus on the foraging areas. Territorial rights exercised by male deer result in fights each year, usually because an adult male is in one territory while a young male wants a neighboring territory. Roe deer are active during the entire 24-hour period but mostly at dawn and dusk.
Diet and nutrition
These deer mainly eat grass, leaves, young shoots and berries, a favorite being very young, tender grass that has recently been rained on and has a high moisture content. They will not usually enter a field with livestock such as cattle or sheep in it because these animals make the grass very dirty.
Roe deer are polygynous, one male mating with multiple females. When males chase the females during courtship, they tend to flatten the underbrush, creating a figure of eight shape called a “roe ring”. Males may use their antlers to push fallen foliage and dirt around during courtship. July and August is the breeding season. Gestation lasts for 10 months and usually 2 spotted kids are born, of opposite gender. The kids stay hidden in long grass until they ready to join the herd. For about three months they are suckled several times a day. Roe deer adults often abandon their kids if they smell or sense that an animal, including a human, has been nearby. Females can start to reproduce at around 16 months old.
As many as 90 percent of these deer die before they reach one year old, falling prey to foxes and lynx in mainland Europe. Respiratory infections and starvation are also responsible for many deaths. The small population remaining in Syria is severely threatened by habitat reduction and persecution by humans.
The IUCN Red List and other sources don’t provide the number of the Roe deer total population size. According to the IUCN Red List the central European population of this species is around 15 million individuals. Currently Roe deer are classifed as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List and their numbers today are increasing.
The Roe deer has importance as a game animal. They are popular for scientific study due to this fact, as well as their widespread and abundant distribution.