At a glance
Widespread throughout much of Britain
Shapes the landscape through
Bark stripping, fraying, scraping, wallowing, seed dispersal
Woodlands, grasslands, lowlands
Reintroductions and key species
In this section
How it shapes the landscape
Like other deer, the fallow deer is a major ecosystem engineer. They mostly graze on grasses and herbs, but also enjoy snacking on young broadleaf trees. The latter encourages the natural regeneration of shrubs and trees. Their grazing and trampling helps to maintain open clearings.
Where it likes to be
Fallow deer like open spaces within broadleaved woodland, where small herds can graze in safety. Pregnant females tend to eat a wide range of grasses, herbs and trees. Their diet follows a seasonal pattern. In the summer months deer tend to be more selective, favouring grasses. Later in the year, they’ll eat nuts, seeds and fruit.
How much space they need
Fallow deer herds tend to like roaming over a few square kilometres, although they often have specific sites they prefer. They will roam further afield if threatened or are struggling for food. In Britain, they have no natural predators and population size needs to be monitored.
Fallow deer are native to south west Asia and were probably introduced to the Mediterranean region around 9,000 years ago. It’s believed that the Normans introduced them to England for hunting in the 11th century, from where their populations have spread into Wales and up to southern Scotland.
Can we have them in Britain?
Fallow deer are already present throughout much of Britain. They do not need introducing but landowners might want to consider what impact they are already having, and factor this into any grazing plans.
- Resident in Britain since 11th Century
- Grazes mostly on grasses as well as broadleaved woodland, herbs, nuts and fruit
- Helps maintain open spaces
- Only deer in Britain to have palmate antlers
- Live in herds; group size is tied closely to available habitat
Image: Fallow deer — Honza123/Shutterstock