Fallow Deer – Dama dama
Habitat: Deciduous woodland, grassland, mixed woodland
Description: A medium-sized deer, similar to sika (intermediate between roe and red deer). Typically has a spotted coat, with a longer tail than other deer, constantly twitching. There is a white “target” with black margins, and a black stripe down the tail. Males have palmate antlers. However, fallow deer are very variable in colour; some are white, others very dark brown (conventionally called “black fallow”), and a variety known as Menil, spotted but with the edges to the rump patch and tail stripe brown, rather than black.
Size: 138-179 cm; tail length 14-21cm; shoulder height 50-120 cm.
Weight: Males 40-63 kg; females 31-44 kg.
Lifespan: Usually 8-10 years in the wild, females 12-16 years.
Origin & Distribution: Fallow deer are native to SW Asia, but were anciently (9,000 years ago) introduced to the Mediterranean region. They were introduced to England by the Normans around 1100 AD. They make better park deer than the larger red deer, so were subsequently widely spread through Britain and Ireland. Escapes from parks, and some direct releases into hunting forests, have seen the fallow established very widely, and they are the most common deer in England. They are also widespread in Scotland, Wales and Ireland.
Diet: Grasses contribute around 60% of the diet, also herbs and boradleaf browse of young trees. They will take acorns, chestnut, beech mast and fruits in Autumn. If grazing limited, they will take bramble and conifer.
General Ecology: They typically live in small herds of 10-50 animals, usually in open woodland and parkland. They also frequent small woodlands in farming country, sheltering in the woodland by day and emerging to feed on farmland at night. During the rut in October, fallow bucks become territorial, groaning and defending a rutting stand where the does visit them to mate.
Breeding: Fawns are born in June-July, after a gestation of 234 days. They are weaned by the time of the next rut, and the does usually first breed as yearlings. Outside the rut, bucks often live in small bachelor herds (5-10), separately from the does and fawns.
Conservation Status: Fallow deer can be a serious pest in commercial forestry. As the commonest deer, they can also be a pest in farmland, and are a common cause of road accidents. Populations in forestry can be culled by stalkers, in the conventional manner, and the venison sold. This is effective in parts of southern Britain where it has limited the spread and increase of this deer.