Home > Species > Large Herbivore database > Elk, reindeer, roe deer (Cetartiodactyla Cervidae Capreolinae) > Eurasian Roe Deer
The taxonomy and systematics of the European Roe Deer have been based on morphological and genetic data. The following subspecies have been recently confirmed by molecular data:
Capreolus capreolus italicus
Capreolus capreolus garganta
Capreolus capreolus capreolus
The identification of Capreolus capreolus caucasicus as correct name for large-sized subspecies north of Caucasus Mountains is provisional. Animals in the Near East have been assigned to Capreolus capreolus coxi.
|Body Length||95-135 cm|
|Shoulder Height||65-75 cm|
|Tail Length||2-3 cm|
The Roe Deer is a relatively small deer, with a body length of 95 to 135 cm, a shoulder height of 65 to 75 cm, and a weight of 15 to 30 kg. Roe Deer has a reddish body with a grey face and its hide is golden red in summer, darkening to brown or even black in winter, with lighter undersides and a white rump patch; the tail is very short 2-3 cm, and barely visible.
It has rather short, erect antlers which are carried only by male Roe Deer. The first and second set of antlers are unbranched and short 5 to 12 cm, while older bucks in good conditions develop antlers up to 20 to 25 cm long with two or three, rarely even four, points.
When the male's antlers begin to regrow, they are covered in a thin layer of velvet-like fur which disappears later on after the hair's blood supply is lost. Males may speed up the process by rubbing their antlers on trees, so that their antlers are hard and stiff for the duels during the mating season. Unlike most cervids, roe deer begin regrowing antlers almost immediately after they are shed.
It occupies a wide variety of habitats, including deciduous, mixed or coniferous forests, moorland, pastures, arable land, and suburban areas with large gardens. It prefers landscapes with a mosaic of woodland and farmland. Roe deer are well adapted to modern agricultural landscapes.
The Roe Deer is primarily crepuscular, or primarily active during the twilight, very quick and graceful, lives in woods although it may venture into grasslands and sparse forests. It feeds mainly on grass, leaves, berries and young shoots. It particularly likes very young, tender grass with a high moisture content, i.e., grass that has received rain the day before. Roe deer will not generally venture into a field that has had or has livestock (sheep, cattle) in it because the livestock make the grass unclean. A pioneer species commonly associated with biotic communities at an early stage of succession, during the Neolithic period in Europe the Roe Deer was abundant, taking advantage of areas of forest or woodland cleared by Neolithic farmers.
The polygamous Roe Deer males clash over territory in early summer and mate in early fall. During courtship, when the males chase the females, they often flatten the underbrush leaving behind areas of the forest in the shape of a figure eight called 'roe rings'. Males may also use their antlers to shovel around fallen foliage and dirt as a way of attracting a mate.
Roebucks enter rutting inappetence during the July and August breeding season. Females are monoestrous and after delayed implantation usually give birth the following June, after a ten-month gestation period, typically to two spotted fawns of opposite sexes.
The fawns remain hidden in long grass from predators until they are ready to join the rest of the herd; they are suckled by their mother several times a day for around three months. Roe deer adults will often abandon their young if they sense or smell that an animal or human has been near it. Young female roe deer can begin to reproduce when they are around 16 months old.
|Gestation Period||10 months|
|Young per Birth||1 or 2|
|Weaning||3 to 4 months|
|Sexual Maturity||16 months|
|Life Span||10 years|
When disturbed Roe Deer can produce a sound very simluar to dog barking and flash out its white rump patch. Rump patches differ between the sexes, with the white rump patches heart-shaped on females and kidney-shaped on males. Males may also bark, make a low grunting noise or make a high pitched wolf-like whine when attracting mates during the breeding season, often luring multiple does into their territory. The Roe Deer spends most of its life alone, preferring to live solitary except when mating during the breeding season.
Roe Deer are predated upon by Wolves, Lynx and Brown Bear.
Densities in the northern and southern parts of the range tend to be lower than in the central parts of the range. The central European population is estimated to number c. 15 million individuals.
The Roe deer is widespread and common, and is expanding in many areas.
Having almost gone extinct in parts of southern Europe because of habitat loss and over-harvesting in the first half of the last century, its numbers started increasing again 20-40 years ago because of countryside abandonment, improved hunting regimes and reintroductions.
However, the endemic Italian subspecies Capreolus capreolus italicus, which is largely restricted to southern Tuscany, probably numbers no more than 10,000 individuals and is at risk from hybridisation with introduced Capreolus capreolus capreolus, which has a large population in the Italian peninsula.
|Italian subspecies Capreolus capreolus italicus||<10,000||at risk of hybridisation|
|World||> 15,000,000||stable / increasing slightly|
Capreolus capreolus - Eurasian Roe Deer: Current distribution
Source: IUCN Red List of Threatened Species
Eurasian Roe Deer - current distribution
Source: IUCN Red List of Threatened Species
Eurasian Roe deer were formerly distributed over Lebanon and Israel.
The Roe Deer has a large range in the Palaearctic. It is found through most of Europe (with the exception of Ireland, Cyprus, Corsica, Sardinia, Sicily, and most of the smaller islands), including western Russia.
Outside Europe, it occurs in Turkey, northern Syria, northern Iraq, northern Iran, and the Caucasus. It occurs from sea level up to 2,400 m asl in the Alps.
It is extinct in Israel and Lebanon (though a re-introduction programme has started in Israel).
In southern Europe there are two subspecies with relatively restricted ranges. Capreolus capreolus italicus occurs in central and southern Italy, between Southern Tuscany, Latium and Puglia, to Calabria. Capreolus capreolus garganta occurs in southern Spain, in particular in Andalusia.
The main threat in Europe is the increased mixing of various genetic stocks as a result of translocations. This may be a particular threat to genetically distinct peripheral populations, such as those in northern Portugal, the southern Italian Apennines, and Greece. Molecular studies show that roe deer in central and southern Europe are mainly admixed, indicating that human manipulation has greatly affected the natural genetic structure of populations.
The small remaining population of Capreolus capreolus italicus is also threatened by poaching and predation by feral dogs.
The small remnant population in Syria is under severe threat from habitat reduction and human persecution.
The species is listed on the Bern Convention and occurs in a large number of protected areas across its range. In general, this species can quickly re-build its numbers and may tolerate a relatively high hunting pressure, if in a suitable habitat and under an appropriate hunting regime. Management operations, such as re-introductions, restocking and translocations, have been carried out widely across its range, and should always be carried out using the appropriate genotypes.
To protect remnant populations of the Italian Roe Deer Capreolus capreolus italicus, the following measures are recommended :
1 Conduct research to determine the genetic struture of Italian roe deer,
2 Map extant populations of Italian roe deer, with indications of their genetic purity,
3 Prohibit translocations of roe deer from northern stocks to central and southern Italy, and vice versa,
4 Facilitate the expansion of remaining populations by reducing poaching and eliminating feral dogs, and
5 Establish a re-introduction plan for southern Italy.
Similar actions are recommended to protect genetically distinct peripheral populations in Portugal and Greece. In general, any translocations of roe deer should respect the genetic integrity of populations at the destination site.
Roe deer have been re-introduced into the wild in Israel in the Ramat Hanadiv park on Mount Carmel near Zichron Yaacov. The first release of six females and two males took place in February 1997, a second release of a male and a female took place in March 1998, and a third release of four animals was completed in 1999. Pending information on the success of this project, this re-introduction is not yet marked on the distribution map.