Our largest deer species. Red/brown coat with no spots on adults. Rump cream coloured. Nearly always seen moving together in herds. Antlers of adult males large and usually branched. Young reds start with small, pointed unbranched antlers.
Download a printable field sign guide here!
Red deer have the largest footprints of all deer species (width 7cm, length 9cm).
However, footprints can be confused with other deer species as well as goat and sheep prints. Red deer can also leave hairs on fences.
Field signs alone are difficult to ascertain exactly which species are present. Direct sightings are not uncommon and are the most reliable deer records.
Deer droppings do not have obvious coloration or smell. The droppings tend to be a similar shape across all species, although red deer droppings are the largest of all species.
The best way to determine which deer species you have seen is by looking at the rump and tail. The red deer has a buff rump, with a ginger buff tail.
Found across Scotland and large pockets across England. Smaller pockets found in Wales and Ireland. (Maps are based on expert advice, as of 2007. Some species ranges may have changed in the time since. We are currently in the process of updating the maps.)
Versatile feeder, more of a grazer than a browser (feeds on ground vegetation more than trees/shrubs) so grasses most important. In winter eats a lot of shrubs such as bramble, holly and ivy when available.
Up to 20 years
Fallow Deer (Dama dama)
Heart-shaped white rump with black horseshoe-shaped border and black, comparatively long, tail (giving the appearance of the number 111).Typical fallow coat has distinctive spots all year round (although fallow coat can vary greatly), compared to red which has no spots. Mature male fallow has large palmate antlers (broad and flattened). Red has large branched antlers that are not palmate. Red deer is larger than the fallow.
Roe Deer (Capreolus capreolus)
Red is a much larger species than Roe. Plain cream/white rump, can be flared when alarmed. No visible tail. Red deer has buff coloured rump with a ginger buff tail. Small branched antlers in mature male roe, typically no more than 3 points. Red has large branched antlers with many branches. Roe has distinctive black nose and white chin.
Sika Deer (Cervus nippon)
Heart-shaped white rump with black upper border. White tail with vertical black streak. Red deer has buff coloured rump with a ginger buff tail.Distinctive spots on sika coat in summer, which red deer do not have. Red has a more reddish coat and is a larger species than the sika.
Chris Matcham says:
“Most of what I’ve learnt is from trial and error. For instance, I wanted to photo the red deer in the New Forest but found that however quiet I tried to be they always heard me and ran off before I could get near. Plan 2 was to watch what a herd did and where they went and then to hide nearby and wait for the deer to come to me. I found that a particular herd went to drink at a particular stream in the early afternoon so I arrived in the morning, found which way the wind was blowing and positioned myself in some scrub upwind of the stream and then waited. Two hours later they came to drink and, hey presto, I got some pictures. I also got loads of ticks but that was just unfortunate. I did the same with roe deer and foxes.
The message is: to get close to animals, study their behaviour and let them do the walking. Patient watching, even if you don’t get any pictures is so rewarding if, just for a little while, you can avoid their defensive strategy. But it took me days and days of missed opportunities to learn that.
Message 2: Learn from the experts. Most are happy to pass on their hard earned knowledge to you. Even David Attenborough will tell you that.”