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Spotting deer in the UK is not difficult at all given that these adorable creatures are abundant and found all over the country. Nowadays, they are not just in rural areas and places that manage deer like estates and parks; they have also been roaming around suburban and urban places.
The UK has six deer species found in the wild – the red, roe, fallow, sika, muntjac and Chinese water deer. Below are detailed descriptions of each type of deer as well as places where you can find them.
The red deer has the distinction of being the UK’s largest terrestrial mammal. At the shoulder, males may measure up to 137 centimetres, while females may reach 122 centimetres. Male red deer, called stags, are also heavier than female red deer or hinds, weighing around 190 kilograms. Apart from being the biggest land animal in Britain, the red deer is also one of two native deer in the country. During summer, they sport reddish brown coats, thus the name. However, in winter, these coats turn into greyish brown and become thicker.
Around May and June, each hind gives birth to a single calf. On very rare occasions, a hind may bear twins. The most distinguishing feature of stags is their antlers which is highly branched. Furthermore, the antler’s branches increase as they get older.
Majority of the red deer population is found in Scotland. Some of them may be seen in other parts of the country. Richmond Park, the largest royal park, is home to 300 red deer. Other places you may want to check include Snettisham Park Farm, Wollaton Estate and Helmingham Hall.
Another native species in the UK, the roe deer are distinguished from other species by their small antlers. Fully grown bucks, male roe deer, have three-point antlers. These generally solitary creatures also have a distinctive black nose. Bucks and does, female roe deer, possess a visible rump, with females sporting a tail-like tuft of hair on the rump in winter.
The reproductive process in female roe deer is unique in that their bodies observe delayed implantation. The embryo’s implantation doesn’t happen immediately. This mechanism ensures that roe deer aren’t born during the cold winter months. Hence, despite their rutting season happening in July and August, their babies aren’t born until May and June.
In the 18th century, they became extinct in most parts of the country, except in the Scottish Highlands. Experts believe overhunting was the culprit behind their disappearance. In the 19th century, they were reintroduced in key areas like Sussex and Dorset. Nowadays, these deer are seen all over the country and their reach is continuously expanding. Places like Lodge Park & Sherborne Estate and Knepp Park are good places to spot roe deer.
The fallow deer have a diverse coat colour. The most common one is the white-spotted yellowish or orange brown coat. Other fur variations include white, black and white-spotted light-coloured furs. They are also the only deer species in the UK with a white rump patch bearing a black inverted horseshoe outline. Furthermore, fallow deer are the only type of deer that sport palmate or palm-like antlers.
Although they are non-native, they are sometimes referred to as such, having been present in Britain since the 11th century. The Normans brought these creatures here for hunting and ornamental purposes.
These medium-sized deer are very common in the woodland and at different deer parks in the country. If you wish to see fallow deer, check out Dinefwr House which has a hundred of these deer.
Two species of muntjac deer are found in Britain – the Indian and the Reeves’ muntjac deer. These deer, believed to be the smallest deer species in the UK, were introduced in the 20th century. Bucks have small antlers which do not branch. Meanwhile, females’ heads have a dark, crown-like patch.
Unlike the single sex herds in red deer, muntjac deer herd is composed of a family – a buck and a doe and sometimes, their offspring. However, the fawns are forced to leave the group when a new one is on the way.
These stocky deer are not seasonal breeders unlike their red, roe and fallow cousins. They can breed all year round. Does give birth after a seven-month gestation period. They can mate again days after giving birth. Moreover, does as young as seven months are already capable of breeding. Since they breed all year round, their population is rapidly increasing in the UK. They are now very common in south-east England and can be seen in parks like Grimsthorpe Castle Park & Gardens.
The sika deer have coats similar to those fallow deer have. In summer, their furs are reddish or yellowish brown with white spots. These become dark grey to black in winter. Their antlers are much like the red deer’s but have fewer branches. They have a prominent white rump and their hind legs have visible white glands.
These medium-sized deer are capable of swimming. In fact, in the sea, it can swim up to 12 kilometres. Furthermore, they are popular for producing different sounds, from whistles to groans.
Brought into the country in 1860, the sika deer originated from Asia. What’s mainly found in the wild in the UK is the Japanese sika deer. Meanwhile, other types of sika deer are found in estates and parklands in the UK. Visit Knole Park or the Scottish Deer Centre to see this deer species.
Chinese Water Deer
Slightly bigger than the muntjac deer, the Chinese water deer are the least common deer species in Britain. As their name suggests, these deer came from China. Often likened to a teddy bear in appearance, these animals have big, rounded ears. Bucks do not have antlers, but they have tusks which are used as weapons. Does also have tusks, but these are not very prominent.
The does may give birth to up to seven offspring at a time. However, not all of the fawns survive. They are generally solitary animals but may form groups, especially during breeding season.
As indicated in their name, the Chinese water deer live in places near bodies of water like riverbanks. They also inhabit open grasslands and low-level vegetation. In the UK, one of the best places to spot the Chinese water deer is at Woburn Abbey where eight other deer species are also found.
Red deer photo by chapmankj75
Roe deer photo by Kumweni
Muntjac deer photo by Eric Kilby
Sika deer photo by Pete Hurford
Chinese water deer photo by Nick Goodrum Photography