Wildlife Column: Shy and retiring deer is on the move

Across the region I get increasing numbers of records and sightings of deer, from the diminutive and secretive muntjac, to our largest wild land mammal, the red deer.

Thursday, 10th June 2021, 12:00 am
Roe Deer taken by Prof Ian Rotherham.
Roe Deer taken by Prof Ian Rotherham.

However, increasingly it is the roe deer that is grabbing people’s attention with animals now regularly seen in the and around the city suburbs and occasionally penetrating into the very heart of the urban core. This is a medium sized deer and at distance can be mistaken for a female red deer or hind. You would think it was obvious which was which but not always and bear in mind that often it is a half view snatched briefly as the animal slips away into undergrowth. Nevertheless, there is a dead giveaway and this is what deer stalkers call ‘the target’.

The rear end or rump of a deer is distinctive in colouring and in shape – so you need to observe the deer’s bottom if you want to be sure which species it is. For roe deer the mark is a white to dirty whitish buff and often very bright and distinctive.

The individual which I photographed here was not well marked and I guess could have been a youngster. When you spot a roe deer it will be generally a single animal or in a small group and frequently it will be seen as it moves silently and rather elegantly away from you. The buck often has short prong-like antlers.

Despite roe deer being naturally shy and retiring, increasingly they are moving into urban areas and are seen in local woods, in city parks, on roads, and even in gardens. Late evening and early morning are good times to spot your local deer, but it is also worth listening for their loud, persistent barking as the males establish territories.

I always liken this to a wheezy chesty cough but audible for a quarter of a mile or more. Roe deer often bark with a series of calls and a gap then it is repeated. The often unseen muntjac also barks but more persistent and fewer pauses.

Professor Ian D. Rotherham, researcher, writer & broadcaster on wildlife & environmental issues, is contactable on [email protected] ; follow Ian’s blog (https://ianswalkonthewildside.wordpress.com/ ) and Twitter @IanThewildside