Roe deer (Capreolus capreolus)

Female roe deer standing alert
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Roe deer fact file

Roe deer description

GenusCapreolus (1)

The small, elegant roe deer (Capreolus capreolus) is reddish brown in colour during summer but becomes grey (4), pale brown or even black in winter (2). The tail is very small and there is a large white rump patch (4), which becomes less obvious or even absent during winter (1). Males are larger than females and have short antlers, usually with three points (4). The antlers are shed from October to January, and the new pair, which begins to grow immediately are covered in 'velvet', furred skin that supplies blood to the growing antlers (4). Young roe deer (called 'kids') have spotted coats (1) for the first six weeks of life (4).

Shoulder height: 60 to 75 cm (2)
10 to 25 kg (2)

Roe deer biology

Roe deer can be active throughout the 24-hour period, but the main peaks of activity occur at dawn and dusk (4). They are either solitary or occur in small mixed groups, and in winter large groups may form to feed together (4). They have a broad diet, which varies depending on the time of year, and includes the leaves of deciduous shrubs and trees (4), cereals, weeds (3), acorns, fungi, conifers and ferns (3).

The breeding season or 'rut' occurs from mid-July to mid-August (2). During this time, males (bucks) become highly aggressive and defend their territories vigorously (2). Fights between males often ensue, two males lock antlers and push and twist (4); these fights can cause serious injuries and even death (2). The winning buck may then mate with a female; courtship involves the buck chasing the female (doe) for some time until she is ready to mate (2). Although mating occurs in August, the fertilised egg does not start to develop until the end of December or early January (3); the roe deer is the only hoofed animal to have this 'delayed implantation' (4), which is thought to be an adaptation to prevent births occurring during the harsh winter (2). Between one and three kids are produced in May and June (3), but twins are very common (4). The young are left alone during the day for the first six weeks of life; their spotted coats help to camouflage them (4), although mortality from predation can still be high (3). After this time they stay by their mother's side (4). Both sexes disperse, but females tend to stay closer to their mother's range than males (3). Sexual maturity is typically reached at around 14 months of age (3).


Roe deer range

This species is native to Scotland but was reintroduced to the rest of the UK during the 19th century after it became extinct in the 18th century (3). Today the roe deer occurs throughout Scotland, and has a wide distribution in England with the exception of east Kent and the Midlands. In Wales they are fairly rare, and they are absent from Northern Ireland (3). This species also occurs throughout most of Europe (3).

You can view distribution information for this species at the National Biodiversity Network Atlas.

Roe deer habitat

Typically occur in open, deciduous, mixed or coniferous woodlands (4). Roe deer also inhabit moorland, and suburbs with large gardens (3).


Roe deer status

The roe deer is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1). This common and widespread species is protected in the UK by the Deer Act 1991 (5). Certain methods of killing or capture are prohibited under Appendix IV of the Bern Convention (6).

IUCN Red List species status – Least Concern


Roe deer threats

As roe deer cause damage to forestry, horticulture and agriculture (4), they are managed as a pest (3). They are also exploited as a game species, and for meat; they are responsible for the greatest income for venison in Europe (3). Furthermore, road deaths are common (3).


Roe deer conservation

There is no conservation action targeted at the widespread and common roe deer.

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.
There may be further information about this species available via the National Biodiversity Network Atlas.

Find out more

For more information on the roe deer:



This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:



  1. IUCN Red List (March, 2011)
  2. British Deer Society. Roe Deer Fact sheet. (November 2002)
  3. The Deer Act 1991. DEFRA (November 2002)
  4. The Bern Convention (November 2002)
  5. The Mammal Society. Mammal fact sheets. (November 2002)
  6. Macdonald, D.W. and Tattersall, F.T. (2001) Britain's mammals- the challenge for conservation. The Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, Oxford University.

Image credit

Female roe deer standing alert  
Female roe deer standing alert

© Andy Rouse /

NHPA/Photoshot Holdings Ltd
29-31 Saffron Hill
United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0) 20 7421 6003
Fax: +44 (0) 20 7421 6006


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