Roe Deer (Capreolus capreolus)
The roe deer is the UK’s most common and widespread deer. A fairly small reddish-brown deer, around the size of a goat, they can easily be identified by their size and a white patch on their rump. Roe deer tend to prefer a mixed landscape of woodland and fields, favouring broadleaved woodland, but can be found almost anywhere in Somerset. The species can often be identified from its tracks - two small parallel slots in the ground (4.5cm x 3.5cm) - or its call, which sounds like a loud bark, similar to a dog’s.
Only the males develop antlers, which are shed in October to December and regrow by March. The antlers tend to be quite small (up to 30cm) and upright, and only develop three points. The roe deer rut (breeding season) lasts from mid-July to the end of August, when males will chase prospective females for several days before mating. Fawns are often born in pairs in May/June and have white spots to help them camouflage for the first few months.
Red Deer (Cervus elephas)
Red deer are the UK’s largest native mammal. In Somerset red deer are most easily seen on Exmoor and the Quantock Hills, especially during the rut when they can often be found out in the open on moors and commons.
Easily identified by their large size, reddish-brown coats and creamy-yellow rumps, males also have impressive antlers. These are at their full size from August, ready for the rut, and are shed in March-April. The antlers grow bigger each year, with old males having antlers of up to 1m across with 8 points. Red deer can also be identified by their tracks, a two-toed print like the Roe deer’s but measuring 6-7cm long and 4.5-5cm wide. During the rut, male deer can be identified by their impressive bellowing roar, which can be heard several kilometres away.
Red deer can be found in woodland as well as open moorland, where grass forms a large part of their diet. However, they’re also keen browsers and will browse heather, brambles, tree leaves, bark, shrubs and young trees. Red deer will often keep to the woods during the day before venturing out to browse and graze in more open habitats during the night.
Outside of the rut males and females do not mix but form same sex groups, with females often preferring to form groups with other related females. During the rut, which lasts from late September to early November, males will round up females into harems of up to 15 females, which they will then defend from other males. Females will generally give birth to one calf the following year from mid-May onwards.