The elegant roe deer is one of six UK deer species, prevalent across most of the UK, they are hardy mammals which are usually associated with woodlands. Their iconic appearance has inspired much loved stories and cartoons such as Felix Salten’s ‘Bambi’, and we have been excited to see them recently on our night-time wildlife camera!
You can identify a roe deer by their long legs, bright white rumps, and short antlers on roebucks (male roe deer), which drop off and grow again every year in time for the rut. Unlike other UK species such as red deer, the roe deer is very slight and not as sturdy looking, with a smaller body, they usually weigh 25- 30kg. The roe deer’s coat colour changes throughout the year, with a reddish- brownish coat during summer, which becomes a duller grey colour during winter. Although these deer appear to have no tail, the female does have a small tuft of hair where their tail would otherwise be.
Rutting season for the roe deer begins in summer, with males becoming hostile and territorial- fighting their opponents for a doe’s attention. Bucks will lock their antlers with an opposing male, twisting and pushing against them aggressively. These fights can cause major injuries for the deer and sometimes results in death. The victor will gain the opponent’s territory and have a better chance to mate. Interestingly, once having mated, the doe’s fertilised egg does not implant until the following year, with the young being born in May or early June. The female deer usually gives birth to twins, which are kept apart from each other, and visited one at a time to be fed and looked after by the mother. The kids are born with the iconic white spots on their fur, acting as a useful camouflage to hide them from potential threats, as they cannot protect themselves very well, this is essential for their survival! The white spots disappear as the roe deer grows and are usually completely gone by the end of the first year.
Porthcurno deer activity
On our night camera (provided by Tevi) we have spotted several roe deer. When we set up the night camera in early November of last year, it was very rare to catch more than a fleeting glance of a roe deer, disappearing into the undergrowth. As time has gone on, especially around late February and early March of this year, pairs of deer have started to emerge out into open grassland, exploring and grazing as well as having a sniff around our camera trap! Roe deer are not an animal I have personally got to see much of in Cornwall, so it is amazing to spot some of our more elusive mammal species flourishing in Porthcurno, and right outside the museum! The night camera allows the us to view glimpses of their social structure and although usually solitary animals, it is clear that roe deer do sometimes like company, travelling in groups and interacting with one another. As the year goes on, I am interested to see for myself how their interactions and behaviours change as it approaches the rut!
Maeve Cushla, Young Curator, PK Porthcurno