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The red deer is a well-known inhabitant of the European continent. In our country it can be found in practically all forest complexes. It is very easy to distinguish a female from a male, because the doe of a deer is devoid of the antlers characteristic of a bull. Should you be afraid of a deer you meet in the forest? What is his lifestyle and diet? You will learn everything in the article below!
In what parts of the world can you find deer?
Deer in the world
Deer live not only in Europe, but also in northern Africa and part of Asia. They have also been introduced (i.e. introduced by humans) to Australia, New Zealand and South America.
Depending on the inhabited areas, these animals vary in size, weight and some anatomical details.
A deer in Poland
In our country, deer inhabit almost all larger forest areas. Our native species is the European deer (Cervus elaphus elaphus), also known as Scandinavian). Depending on the place of occurrence, several ecotypes of it can be distinguished:
- deer running wild,
- Masurian deer,
- Pomeranian deer,
- Greater Poland deer.
The largest and most powerful of all is the Bieszczady ecotype. You can meet deer both in the mountains and in the lowlands. They are found in deciduous or mixed forests. Their huge and spreading antlers, however, preclude living among very dense vegetation.
What does a deer look like?
Deer hair and color
The deer are covered with relatively short and dense hair, which lengthens only slightly around the head and neck. These animals change their hair twice a year. In winter, it is silver or dark gray. It is rusty brown in summer and fall, darker in the area of the neck, legs and abdomen.
Coloring of adults is uniform. A small deer has spots on its back and sides visible to the naked eye.
How much does a deer weigh?
Deer are very large animals. In individuals found in Polish forests, the average height at the withers is about 150 centimeters. The length, on the other hand, can be up to 2.5 meters!
The weight of the deer can vary greatly depending on the area of the individual’s occurrence and, above all, access to food. In Poland, the heaviest males, i.e. bulls, can weigh up to 220 kilograms. The average weight of a deer doe is around 130 kilograms.
Deer antlers – what is worth knowing about them?
The vast majority of male deer have antlers, although in some individuals, called monks, they never grow.
Among foresters and hunters, deer horns are called a wreath. The antlers consist of two poles from which individual branches, or branches, grow – there can be up to 30 of them. The most impressive horns with the greatest number of legs are found in mature males ranging in age from 10 to 12 years.
The weight of the deer antler varies depending on its ecotype. Carpathian and Masurian bulls have horns weighing up to 12 kilograms, while the others have horns that do not exceed 8 kilograms.
Bulls shed their antlers in winter. It begins to grow back in early spring to reach its largest size in summer.
Is female deer a roe deer?
Often you can still meet with the belief that the roe deer is a female deer. Meanwhile, these are two completely different species of animals! Male roe deer are called goats and female deer are doe.
What do deer eat?
The deer is a herbivorous animal that is definitely not picky. Its diet is based on grasses and grains, but deer also feed on:
- the fruits of shrubs and trees,
- dried and dried grasses,
- branches of young trees,
- vegetables and fruit growing in the fields.
If there is a shortage of food in forests, deer appear in farmlands, where they unscrupulously eat their crops. They do not disdain vegetables such as cabbage, potatoes or beets. This can be a real nuisance for farmers at times.
Deer reproduction. What is a rut?
The deer mating season, i.e. the rut, usually takes place in the second half of September. Fully mature specimens join it. The bull deer is usually about five years old then, and the doe is at least three years old.
During rutting, deer lose up to fifteen percent of their body weight because they do not eat during this period.
Pregnancy and rearing young
Deer gestation lasts approximately 230 days. The young are usually born at the turn of May and June. The female usually gives birth to one toddler, although sometimes there are double litters.
For the first few days, the young are in hiding. After this time, he is able to follow his mother and then joins the herd with her. The deer remain under the care of their mother for quite a long time. They feed on its milk for about eight months, and they become fully independent only between the ages of two and three.
Is the deer dangerous to humans?
Deer are skittish animals, so meeting them in the forest is very unlikely. When they hear a person, most often they just walk away to safety. However, if you run into a bull or a doe while picking mushrooms or walking, the best solution is to walk away calmly.
Deer attack humans extremely rarely, usually when they feel very threatened and have no way out.
Deer generally lead a nocturnal lifestyle. This is somewhat inconsistent with their biological predisposition, because they are daily animals by nature. However, the proximity of human settlements means that they hide in the forest thickets during the day, and they leave when the rural buzz fades away and it gets dark.
The average life expectancy of deer in natural conditions is from 12 to 15 years, although the oldest animals found were up to two decades old. On farms and zoos, animals live peacefully at twenty-five.
The role of deer in the forest ecosystem
Deer hunting is not uncommon, unfortunately. One of the most repeated arguments of hunters is the need to regulate the deer population, which destroy the shoots of young trees, not only by eating them, but also by trampling them.
Deer hunts are only permitted at certain times. It is a cyclically protected animal. The doe can be hunted from October 1 to January 15, which is when they are not very pregnant and have no newborns under their care. The bull season runs from August 21 to the end of February, and the season for kids from October 1 to the end of February.
The number of deer in Polish forests is overestimated by hunting communities, but research shows that it has been systematically growing in recent years. The only natural enemies of these animals in our climate are lynxes, wolves and bears. The last two species are found almost exclusively in the Bieszczady Mountains.
Interesting facts about deer
The mating season of these animals is called a rut for a reason. The bulls are very vocal then. Their screams sound different and can express very different emotions.
Old bulls usually lead an independent lifestyle. Most of the time, however, deer live in same-sex herds. They only scatter during the rut.
The deer is a very large ungulate mammal that occurs throughout Poland – from the Bieszczady Mountains to Pomerania. He is usually active at night and can be very skittish, so face-to-face encounters are unlikely to occur. However, if you have such an opportunity, try to remain calm and discreetly withdraw elsewhere. Deer are usually not dangerous to humans. The exception is when they feel threatened and have no way out.