European roe deer or Capreolus capreolus (the name of a mammal in Latin) — a small graceful deer living in the forests and forest-steppes of Europe and Russia (Caucasus). Often these herbivores can be found on the outskirts and edges of the forest, in light forests with a large number of shrubs, next to multi-grass fields and meadows.
Origin of the species and description
Capreolus Capreolus belongs to the order Artiodactyls, the Deer family, the Roe deer subfamily. The European roe deer is united in one subfamily with American and real deer. On the territory of the Russian Federation there are two species of this subfamily: European roe deer and Siberian roe deer. The first is the smallest representative of the species.
The term itself comes from the Latin word capra – goat. Therefore, the second name of the roe deer among the people — wild goat. Due to its wide range of habitat, the European roe deer has several subspecies living in different parts of Europe: a subspecies in Italy and a subspecies in southern Spain, as well as especially large roe deer in the Caucasus.
Video: Roe deer
The area of historical settlement of roe deer was formed in the Neogene period. Individuals close to the modern species filled the lands of modern western and central Europe, as well as some parts of Asia. In the era of the Quaternary period and the melting of glaciers, artiodactyls continued to develop new places and reached Scandinavia and the Russian Plain.
Up until the nineteenth century, the habitats remained the same. In connection with the large fishing, the number of the species began to decline, and the range, respectively, too, forming isolated settlements. In the 60s-80s of the twentieth century, due to the tightening of conservation measures, the number of deer began to grow again.
Appearance and features
Roe deer — a small deer, the weight of a mature individual (male) reaches 32 kg, height up to 127 cm, at the withers up to 82 cm (depending on body length, it takes 3/5). Like many animal species, females are smaller than males. They differ in a not long body, the back of which is higher than the front. The ears are elongated, pointed.
The tail is small, up to 3 cm long, often not visible from under the fur. Under the tail there is a caudal disk or “mirror” and is light in color, often white. The bright spot helps the roe deer at the moment of danger, being a kind of alarm signal for the rest of the herd.
The color of the coat depends on the season. Darker in winter — These are shades from gray to brown-brown. In summer, the color brightens to light red and yellowish cream. The tone of the body and head is not different. The coloration of sexually mature individuals is the same and does not differ by gender.
The hooves are black, sharp at the end in front. Each leg has two pairs of hooves (according to the name of the detachment). The hooves of the female representatives of the species are equipped with special glands. In the middle of summer, they begin to secrete a special secret that informs the male about the beginning of the rut.
Only males have horns. They reach 30 cm in length, up to 15 cm in span, close together at the base, normally curved in the form of a lyre, branched. Horns appear in cubs by the fourth month from birth, and are fully developed by the age of three. Females do not have antlers.
Every winter (from October to December) deer shed their antlers. They will grow back only in the spring (until the end of May). At this time, males rub them against trees and shrubs. In this way, they mark their territory and simultaneously clean off the remnants of the skin from the horns.
In some individuals, the horns have an abnormal structure. They are not branched, like goat horns, each horn going straight up. Such males pose a danger to other members of the species. When competing for territory, such a horn can pierce an opponent and inflict fatal damage.
Where does the European roe deer live?
Capreolus сapreolus lives on the lands of most of Europe, Russia (Caucasus), the countries of the Middle East:
- Great Britain;
This type of deer chooses areas rich in tall grass, light forests, edges and outskirts of dense forest. Lives in deciduous and mixed forests, forest-steppes. In coniferous forests, it can be found in the presence of deciduous undergrowth. It enters the steppe zones along forest belts. But it does not live in the zone of real steppes and semi-deserts.
Most often located at an altitude of 200-600 m above sea level, but sometimes found in the mountains (alpine meadows). Roe deer can be found near human habitats on agricultural land, but only in those places where there is a forest nearby. There you can hide in case of danger and rest.
The average density of animals in the habitat increases from north to south, increasing in the zone of deciduous forests. When choosing a location, roe deer are based on the availability and variety of food, as well as places where they can hide. This is especially true for open fields and areas located close to human settlements.
What does the European roe deer eat?
B during the day, the activity of artiodactyls is different. Periods of movement and finding food are replaced by periods of chewing found food and rest. The daily rhythm is tied to the movement of the sun. The greatest activity is observed in the morning and evening.
Many factors influence the behavior and rhythm of life of deer:
- living conditions;
- proximity to places where people live;
- length of time during the day.
At night and in the evening, roe deer are usually active in summer, and in winter in the morning. But if the presence of a person nearby is noticeable, the animals will go out to feed at dusk and at night. Eating and chewing food occupy almost the entire waking time of artiodactyls (up to 16 hours per day).
On hot summer days, the amount of food eaten decreases, and on rainy and cold winter days, on the contrary, it increases. In autumn, the animal prepares for wintering, gaining weight and stocking up on nutrients. The diet includes grass, mushrooms and berries, acorns. In winter, dry leaves and branches of trees and shrubs.
Due to the lack of food, during the cold months, roe deer come close to people's houses and fields in search of crop residues left after harvest. They rarely eat the whole plant itself, usually bite it from all sides. The liquid is obtained mainly from plant foods and snow cover. Sometimes they drink water from springs to get minerals.
Peculiarities of character and lifestyle
European roe deer gregarious animal, but its gregariousness is not always manifested. By nature, roe deer prefer to be alone or in small groups. During the winter season, deer gather in a group and migrate to less snowy areas. In summer, the migration is repeated to more juicy pastures, then the herd breaks up.
In Europe, roe deer are not subject to transitions, but vertical migrations take place in the mountains. In some regions of Russia, the migration distance reaches 200 km. In the warm season, individuals stay in small groups: females with cubs, males singly, sometimes in a group of up to three individuals.
In the spring, sexually mature males begin a fight for territory, and having driven out a competitor once does not mean mastering the territory forever. If the area is in favorable conditions, the claims of competitors will continue. Therefore, males aggressively defend their territory, marking it with a special odorous secret.
The areas of females are less separated, they are not inclined to defend the territory as much as males. At the end of autumn, after the end of the mating period, they gather in groups of up to 30 heads. During migrations, the number of herds increases by 3-4 times. At the end of the migration, the herd breaks up, this happens in the middle of spring, before the birth of young individuals.
Social structure and reproduction
In the middle of summer (July-August), the European roe deer begins the mating season (rut). An individual reaches sexual maturity in the third – fourth year of life, females sometimes earlier (in the second). During this period, males behave aggressively, mark the territory, are very excited, make “barking” sounds.
Frequent fights when defending the territory and females often end with an opponent being wounded. Roe deer have a territorial structure – occupying one of the places, they return here next year. The area of the male individual includes several sites for childbirth, the females fertilized by him come to it.
Deer are characterized by polygamy and often, having fertilized one female, the male goes to another. During the rut, males show aggressiveness not only towards males, but also towards the opposite sex. These are the so-called mating games, when the male stimulates the female with his behavior.
The period of intrauterine development of cubs lasts 9 months. However, it is divided into latent: after the crushing stage, the fetal egg does not develop for 4.5 months; and development period (December to May). Some females that do not mate in summer are fertilized in December. In such individuals, there is no latent period and the development of the fetus begins immediately.
Pregnancy lasts 5.5 months. One female bears 2 cubs per year, young individuals – 1, older ones can bear 3-4 cubs. Newborn roe deer are helpless, they lie hidden in the grass and if danger overtakes them, they will not budge. They begin to follow their mother a week after birth. The female feeds her offspring with milk up to 3 months of age.
Toddlers learn quickly and after they start walking, they slowly master a new food – grass. At the age of one month, half of their diet consists of plants. At birth, roes have a spotted color, which changes to an adult color in early autumn.
Animals communicate with each other in different ways:
- smell: sebaceous and sweat glands, with the help of them males mark territory;
- sounds: males make specific sounds during the mating period, similar to barking. The squeak that cubs make when in danger;
- body movements. Certain postures that the animal takes when threatened.
European roe deer natural enemies
The main danger for roe deer in nature is predators. Mostly wolves, brown bears, stray dogs. Artiodactyls are most vulnerable in winter, especially during the snowy period. Nast falls under the weight of the roe deer and it quickly gets tired, while the wolf is on the surface of the snow and quickly drives its prey.
Young individuals often fall prey to fox, lynx, marten. Being in a group, roe deer have a great chance of not getting caught by predators. When one animal shows an alarm signal, the rest become alert and converge in a heap. If one animal runs away, its caudal disk (“mirror”) becomes clearly visible, which other individuals are guided by.
Fleeing roe deer are capable of jumping up to 7 m in length, and 2 m in height at a speed of 60 km/h. The deer run is not long, passing a distance of 400 m in an open place and 100 m in a forest, they start running in circles, confusing predators. In especially cold and snowy winters, animals do not find food and die of hunger.
Population and species status
Today, the European roe deer belongs to the taxa of the minimum risk of extinction. This was facilitated by the measures taken in recent years to protect the species. The population density does not exceed 25-40 animals per 1000 ha. Due to its high fecundity, it can restore its population itself, therefore it tends to increase.
Capreolus Capreolus is the most adapted species of the entire Deer family to anthropogenic changes. Deforestation, an increase in the area of agricultural land, contribute to a natural increase in the population. In connection with the creation of favorable conditions for their existence.
On the territory of Europe and Russia, the population is quite large, but in some countries of the Middle East (Syria), the population is small and requires protection. On the island of Sicily, as well as in Israel and Lebanon, this species has become extinct. In nature, the average life expectancy is 12 years. Under artificial conditions, artiodactyls can live up to 19 years.
With excessively rapid growth, the population regulates itself. In areas overpopulated with roe deer, they get sick more often. Due to their high prevalence and abundance, among all species of the Olenev family, they are of great commercial importance. The skin is used to make suede, the meat is a high-calorie delicacy.
The European roe deer is a small graceful deer known as a commercial species. In nature, the number of its population is high. With a large population in a small area, it can cause serious damage to green spaces and crops. It has an important commercial value (because of its abundance) and adorns the wildlife with its appearance.