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Roe deer

Capreolus capreolus

A medium-sized woodland browser with a rusty red summer coat, white rump and no tail

Roe deer SS

At a glance

Status

Common and somewhat over-abundant throughout Britain

Shapes the landscape through

Bark stripping, fraying, scraping, seed dispersal

Preferred hangout

Woodlands, scrublands

Weight

23 kg

Length

1.2 metres

Speed

58 km/h

How it shapes the landscape

When not too abundant, roe deer are an important participant in woodland life, creating discrete, small-scale disturbances and sculpting the development of open shrublands and the woodland understory. They habitually beat well-worn paths, loved by feeding song thrushes and dunnocks. Their faeces attract various invertebrates. They create small scrapes of disturbed soil with their hooves, which invertebrates dig at and bask in.

Where it likes to be

Roe deer are very much a species of woodlands and shrubby woodland edges, from where they’ll venture into adjacent open ground such as farmland, parks and larger gardens when the coast is clear and they feel safe.

How much space they need

Roe deer need a good amount of space and tree cover in which to forage, but like many mammals will range across different sizes of area according to food availability, season and climate.

Background story

A true British native since at least the Mesolithic, roe deer were almost extinct in England, Wales and Southern Scotland by the 18th century, due to hunting. They’re now widespread and common. Their excess numbers are problematic for foresters and farmers, and for woodland wildlife that needs the thickets that roe deer love to nibble. The lynx was once the roe deer’s most feared foe in the British landscape but there are now no natural predators.

Special Power

Roe deer was once a pioneer species, though this is less behaviour is less obvious today

Can we have them in Britain?

Roe deer are already over-abundant and their populations subject to on-going management locally throughout their range. 

In summary

  • A medium-sized woodland and shrubland deer
  • Almost extinct in much of Britain by 18th Century
  • Overabundant in places, with no natural predators (for example, the lynx)
  • Management of roe deer numbers may be required within rewilding areas
  • Roe deer tend to graze at night

Image: Roe deer — WildMedia/​Shutterstock

Next in Reintroductions and key species

Wild boar (pig)

This woodland rootler is a resilient churner of the Earth, breaker of bracken and habitat regenerator