The roe deer has spread in recent years after almost becoming extinct in Wales, and has been seen as far south west as the Pembrokeshire border with Ceredigion.
There are six types of deer living in the UK - roe, red, sika, fallow, Reeve’s muntjac and Chinese water deer - but only the roe and red are native, fallow having been introduced twice and the others escaped or released alien species. There are also reindeer on private estates, mostly in Scotland, and at some zoological theme parks such as Manor Park, near Tenby.
Unlike the red deer, fallow and sika deer, the stags of which breeds have magnificent antlers, the roe deer males have short, straight antlers and are quite small, with a body length of 3.1 to 4.4 feet, a shoulder height of about 2.5 feet and a weight of between 33 and 37-lbs. The hide is golden red in summer darkening to brown or even black in winter, with lighter undersides and a white rump patch. The short tail is barely visible. Some older males develop antlers with two or three and occasionally four points. They feed mainly on grass, leaves and young shoots and prefer their grass to be wet after rain. They do not generally enter a field which has cattle in or they have been using, as they seem to think the cattle make the grass unclean. The lifespan of the roe deer in the wild is about 10 years. When alarmed the deer will utter a sound very much like a dog’s bark and flash its white rump patch, while the does make a high pitched ‘pheep’ noise to attract the males. When chasing the does, the bucks flatten the woodland underbrush in the form of figures of eight which are known as ‘roe-rings’. The gestation period is 10 months and the does invariably give birth to twin spotted fawns of opposite sexes. The fawns hide from predators in the long grass for around three months, suckled by their mothers several times a day until they are ready to join the herd. At this time they are very vulnerable and, if their mother smells that another animal or human has been near the hiding place, she will often abandon her young. Roe deer actually became extinct in England and Wales during the 18th century, but survived in remote wooded parts of the central and north west highlands of Scotland. They have been reintroduced in the south of the UK and the estimated population is now around 500,000 in this country.