Roe deer (Capreolus capreolus)

Brief background:
20-45 kg (males are heavier than females)
Length: 90-135 cm; at withers - 75-78 cm (males are larger than females)
Sexual maturity age: males - at 2 years of age, females - at 1 year of age
Mating period: July-August
Gestation period: ~ 9 months (270-280 days)
Number of offspring: 1-3, born in May-June
Lifespan: 7-15 years
Natural predators: wolves, lynx, stray dogs, for fawns also - foxes, wild boars, large birds of prey and other predators
Status of the species in Latvia: A widely distributed and very common species throughout the entire territory of Latvia. According to the data of the State Forest Service for 2019, the population of roe deer in Latvia is approximately 184,000 individuals.

Where do they live? The smallest biungulates of Latvia occur practically everywhere - in the widest variety of forests, meadows, agricultural land and even backyard gardens. However, their favourite habitats are forests with rich growths of cowberries and bilberries, various tasty herbaceous plants, raspberry stands and other shrubs.

How do they live? These animals enjoy living in a certain area, in families, in small groups or herds. Only older bucks beyond the mating period are solitary. In autumn, roe deer may unite in larger herds of up to 20-30 animals in order to more easily survive the cold winter months.

The mating period of roe deer is July-August. Small fawns are only born in May-June of the following year.  Female roe deer are characterised by a long period of latent or delayed pregnancy. This means that fertilised eggs freely “float” in the uterus without implantation and the development of embryo cells occurs very slowly. The foetus only attaches to the wall of the uterus in December. During the following months, the foetus develops in accordance with the normal rhythm. Latent pregnancy allows the avoidance of birth during the cold months of the year.

Upon birth, the fur of the small fawns is covered with light spots. This helps fawns to hide in the forest landscape without being seen by prying eyes.

What do they eat? Roe deer are herbivores that use more than 250 plant species as food. They eat various herbaceous plants, small shrubs, branches of trees and shrubs, leaves and buds. Infrequently, from time to time, they consume mosses, ferns, fungi and acorns. Roe deer are very fond of tasty treats from our gardens and fields - peas, sweet lupin, red clover, greens of winter cereals, apples and a variety of vegetables.

Roe deer are ruminants - they swallow the plant-based food almost whole, without chewing. Later, at the moments of rest, they regurgitate the swallowed food and thoroughly chew it again. Then the digestion processes continue further on in the stomach.

Did you know?

  • Roe deer is the most common biungulate animal of Latvia.
  • Roe deer are the smallest representatives of the deer family in Latvia.
  • Roe deer are biungulates – when walking, they evenly distribute the weight between the two principal toes (the third and the fourth).
  • In moments of danger, the frightened roe deer produce low, loud and barking sounds.
  • When escaping, roe deer show the “mirror” of their tail to other individuals - it is a light spot of their fur next to their tail. It serves as a visual warning and indication of the direction of escape to other members of the herd.
  • Roe deer have almost the shortest tails among all animals of the deer family.
  • The number of branches on male roe deer antlers cannot be used to determine their age!
  • In contrast to other animals of deer family, after shedding their antlers, male roe deer almost immediately resume growing new ones.
  • Roe deer are considered to be refined and graceful animals.
  • Roe deer are popular game animals. Principal trophy - antlers.
  • The famous fairy tale hero Bambi was initially a roe dear fawn that was renamed as a deer in the Walt Disney animation movie.
  • Roe deer is the animal of Västmanland Province of Sweden.
  • The Latin species name Capreolus capreolus given by Carl Linnaeus means “small goat”.

Myths and truth The antlers of male roe deer already start developing during the first year of life, in autumn. In adult roe deer bucks, they start growing in January-February. During the growth process, the antlers are comparatively “soft” and covered with young, hairy skin. Later the antlers solidify, the skin dies back, and, in April-May, it is rubbed off the antlers. Usually, by the mating period in July, their head decor is completely clean.. Mares shed their antlers in October-November. The number of branches on the antlers cannot be used to determine the age of roe deer!

There are three roe deer residing at Līgatne Nature Trails