The Deer Population Of The UK Is At An All-Time High With Six Species of Deer in the Country and An Estimated 2+Million Deer In Total. But Most People Rarely, Or Never, See Deer In The Sid Valley
Though most deer species are quite big animals, they are quite elusive and most often keep hidden during daylight hours. So, despite being active 24 hours a day, they are most likely to be seen at dawn and dusk in the Sid Valley. The species most likely to be seen in the Sid Valley is the roe deer.
That’s not to say that fallow and red deer never visit the valley. There are established populations of fallow to the west of the Exeter and red deer on both Dartmoor and Exmoor. Wandering individuals of both species have been occasionally reported in the area, but if you see a deer in the valley it is most likely to be a roe deer.
The other species of deer we might see in the Sid Valley in the near future is the Sika deer. Common in the New Forest and to the East of Weymouth, verified sightings have been seen as nearby as Trinity Hill, Axminster.
And muntjac deer are establishing populations further and further west and could be in Devon now or very soon.
Roe Deer In The Sid Valley
The most common evidence of roe deer in the valley are the slots (footprints) they leave behind. I see roe deer fairly regularly near my home but see the evidence of their slots every day when walking. They have established routes from the woodland they hide up in during the day to the local streams where they drink at twilight or during the night.
It’s often hard to judge the size of deer when viewed from a distance, and that one fact is most likely to be the cause of so many misidentified deer. Frequently I see photos of deer, claimed to be one species, but clearly not as the recorder assumed. The biggest giveaways, next to the size, are the antlers. Male roe (bucks) have small antlers, with just three points. Females (does), don’t have antlers.
Compare that with the broad antlers of the bigger fallow, and multiple point antlers of the much larger red deer and it’s a wonder we ever mistake one for the other. But of course, most views are fleeting and often screened by trees and other vegetation.
Roe deer weigh between 10-25 kg, so are dainty deer compared with fallow, sika and red deer. Their coat is dull grey in winter and a brighter rusty red in summer. Both buck and doe display a white rump without a visible tail. And it’s this white rump, disappearing between the trees, that is often the only indication that roe have been present.
Other signs are small trees with frayed branches or trunks, where the deer have rubbed on them.
The following video was produced for the BDS, it a not an indication of our support for them, but does show roe deer in the open .. and a typical Bambi in the last scenes.
Roe: A Native Species
Roe have been with us since the last ice age. They undoubtedly followed the retreating glaciers at a time when a land bridge still existed. Today they are found not just in the Sid Valley. They are abundant throughout the country and are our most numerous deer species.
Roe are a woodland species, willing to come out into the fields under cover of darkness or keep near the hedges during the day. In fact, it’s the woodland glades and woodland edge where they seem to be happiest. Here they can meld back into the vegetation or run if need be.
Roe Deer: Life Cycle, Breeding And Behaviour
Roe Deer live around ten years in the wild. And roebucks are fertile at around one year old. But it will be the biggest and strongest bucks that most frequently mate with local does. The does are only in oestrus, and receptive to the bucks, for a few days each year. Research at UWEHartpury indicates that the does choose the buck, not the other way around, and that she will preferably mate with several bucks to ensure pregnancy occurs. The mating season, or rut, is between mid-July to mid-August, but, though fertilised, the does aren’t actually pregnant in the normal sense of the word. Roe deer are the only ruminant species that delay egg implantation. The egg stays in the uterus for 4-5 months before being implanted and starting to grow. So, though the gestation period appears to be 9.5 months it’s not really, due to an embryonic diapause.
Roe fawns are born between mid-May and mid-June. Twins are common with some triplets being born. Mortality is however high and few survive a harsh winter to breed the following year. Quite a number also die in the first weeks after birth.
Though active 24/7 roe tend to ruminate during the day and graze or browse from dusk to dawn with peak activity at dusk and dawn.
If you have photos of roe or other deer species taken in the Sid Valley we’d love to see them and feature them on this page and in our gallery!