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Roebuck (Capreolus capreolus)

Roebuck ( Capreolus capreolus )

without rank: Forehead weapon bearer (Pecora)
Family : Deer (Cervidae)
Subfamily : Deer (Capreolinae)
Tribe : Capreolini
Genre : Roe deer ( capreolus )
Type : deer
Scientific name
Capreolus capreolus
( Linnaeus , 1758)

The roe deer ( Capreolus capreolus ), also called the European deer to distinguish it from the Siberian deer , is the most common and smallest species of deer in Europe . As capreolinae it is closer to Ren , elk and the American white-tailed deer used as with the also native to Central Europe stag .

The deer originally inhabited forest edge zones and clearings. However, it has successfully opened up a number of very different habitats and is now also found in open, almost uncovered agricultural steppes . Frightened deer usually seek protection in thickets with a few, quick leaps. For this reason, and due to some morphological features , it is classified as the so-called " hatchery type ". Deer are ruminants and as selectors called because they preferred protein-rich fodder graze . During the summer months, the deer live mostly individually or in small groups, consisting of a doe and its fawns; in winter, jumps form that usually contain more than three or four animals. Deer that live in the open agricultural landscape make jumps of more than twenty individuals.

The deer is subject to hunting law and is assigned to hoofed game and small game . The hunting range in Germany alone amounts to more than a million pieces annually. In the agricultural wild attitude it does not matter because of its behavioral characteristics.

The deer was selected as Animal of the Year 2019 by the German Wildlife Foundation .


Fleeing deer

Adult deer have a body length of 93 to 140 centimeters and reach a shoulder height between 54 and 84 centimeters. They weigh between 11 and 34 kilograms, depending on their nutritional status. The weight tends to increase from southwest to northeast, from lower to higher altitudes and from warmer to colder climates. Ricken weigh an average of 17.1 kilograms in southwest Spain and 23.2 kilograms in northern Spain. In Norway, however, Ricken reach an average weight of 28.8 kilograms. There is no pronounced sexual dimorphism in relation to body dimensions. Female deer do not wear antlers .

Due to several characteristics, the deer is assigned to the so-called "slipper type". In contrast to the red deer, which flees with a fast, persistent run when alarmed and which is assigned to the runner type, the deer seeks cover in the thicket with a few quick leaps when alarmed. It has a slightly curved and sloping spine, which makes the croup higher than the withers . The antlers of the bracket is relatively small. The wedge-shaped body shape is adapted to the silent wind through thick vegetation. The legs are graceful and long in relation to the trunk, the hind legs are severely bent at the hocks.

The head is short in relation to the length of the body, and in profile it appears almost triangular. The ears are long-oval and pointed and their length is about two thirds of the length of the head. The iris is black-brown with a transverse pupil . The neck is slender and longer than the head. The coat consists of guide hair, awn hair and wool hair . Guard hairs and guiding hairs form the top hairs , underneath are the very thin and strongly curled wool hairs. In summer, the coat is shiny on the top and the outside of the body, whereby the color can vary individually from a dark brown-red to a pale yellow. The inside of the legs and the lower abdomen are lighter and more yellowish. The region around the anus, the so-called mirror , stands out from the rest of the fur and is usually yellowish white in color. Bucks have a small white spot on the chin and on each side of the upper lip, and a white spot is often also formed above the nose area. The ears of both sexes are brown-gray on the outside with a dark to black edge, while the inside is light gray to white. The transition from summer to winter coat takes place in September and October. At first it runs inconspicuously because the red summer hair optically covers the growing gray winter hair for a long time. The hair change that can be seen by an observer, on the other hand, proceeds very quickly and is completed within a week in healthy deer. In winter the color of the coat varies between light and dark gray. Even in winter coat, the underside of the body is lighter than the upper side. The change from winter to summer dress takes place in Central Europe in the period from March to April. The summer hair is visible first on the head, then on the withers. In winter, the individual hair is hollow, which is used for better insulation by trapping air.

The fur of the fawns is red-brown and initially has white dots on the back and on the flanks. These white spots gradually become indistinct from the age of one month and disappear by the age of two months due to the overgrowth of red summer hair. Under the long red hair, the white and brown fawn hair are still present until the winter coat changes.

Color anomalies

In addition to red-brown deer, albinotic or partially albinotic individuals rarely occur . In pure albinos, the hair is completely white and the eyes are red. With the somewhat more common partial albinos, the so-called pied deer, white spots appear on different parts of the body, the white spots can be of different sizes. If the deer lacks certain color pigments, the hair can also be yellowish or silver-colored.

In the lowlands of northern central Germany there are a large number of so-called black deer, which occur occasionally in other regions. In northern central Germany there were probably black deer around 990 in the vicinity of Haste . Its occurrence is certain for 1591 in today's Lüchow-Dannenberg district , as a letter from Landgrave Wilhelm von Hessen-Kassel to Duke Heinrich Julius von Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel has survived from that year, asking for the promised black ones to be sent Deer asks.

The color is explained by a strong increase in the black pigment, which suppresses the red color. This trait is presumably inherited in a recessive manner. In summer, the head to the line of the eyes, neck, back and upper part of the legs are glossy deep black. The underside of the body looks gray-black. In winter the black is a little more dull. The fawns are also already colored black, but like normal colored fawns they have one to two rows of light spots on both sides of the spine. Black deer always make up a small proportion of the total roe deer population. Even where the targeted shooting of red-brown deer wanted to specifically promote the proportion of black deer, it was not possible to increase their proportion to over 75 percent.



Only the goats have antlers . In the hunter's language the antlers of the deer are also called horns , in the southern German-Austrian language area also called Krickl . It consists of two round to oval rods that reach an average length of 15 to 20 centimeters in bucks in Central Europe. Normally, each pole of a normally developed, older buck has three ends: a so-called front rung as well as the actual end of the pole, also called the middle rung, and a rear rung located between the two. The most important biological function of these antlers is to fight and defend the hierarchy. The piston ends, which are provided with scent glands, also produce a secretion up to the sweeping of the bast skin , which is then stripped off the vegetation. Since the body produces excess antlers, external factors such as diet play a role in its development, in addition to the age of the bucks. Only after the buck has completed its physical development can antler development reach its peak. As a rule, antler mass and volume reach their maximum in five-year-old bucks. The antlers can then weigh up to 600 grams. There is no evidence that bucks with stronger antlers are preferred by the doe.

When the production of the male sex hormone testosterone begins, the three-month-old buckskins develop processes on the frontal bones that are called rose bushes . Without nutritional deficiencies in the fawns, these front cones reached a length of 30 millimeters and a diameter of up to 10 millimeters in September / October. They are still surrounded by skin, not bast. This skin is scraped off in the period December to January, so that the tips of these first-time antlers are exposed. Shortly thereafter, the shedding takes place and the formation of the subsequent antlers begins. Annual bucks' antlers are usually designed as simple, unbranched skewers. The stems typical of two and perennial rams with two or three rungs each are less common in annuals. Bucks that are more than five years old are increasingly no longer able to completely release the nutrients they need to build up their antlers because they consume more minerals than they absorb. The increasingly poor diet due to the wear and tear of the teeth and possibly also a declining functionality of the endocrine glandular system play a role here.

In bucks that have completed at least the first year of life, the antlers fall off annually from October to November and immediately begin to grow again under a protective and nourishing bast skin . The growth phase of the antlers lasts about 60 days and ends in January. A daily antler growth of about three millimeters has been found in rams kept in gates . The energy-sapping pushing of antlers in the relatively low-grazing winter time is very rare in deer and only occurs in the Siberian deer and the East Asian David deer .

Horns with bast skin

The bast skin dies after the antlers have formed and is removed from the remaining bone mass by the buck by sweeping bushes and young trees. In Central Europe, bucks that are at least two years old sweep their antlers during the second half of March and thus before they switch to their summer dress. Annual bucks, on the other hand, sweep their antlers seven to eight weeks later, when they are already wearing their summer dress. Freshly swept antlers are white or slightly red from the adhering blood. By sweeping trees and bushes, bark and plant juices penetrate the pores of the poles, which gives the antlers their color. Bucks that sweep their antlers on alders and conifers tend to have very dark antlers, light gray poles are typical for so-called field turning, which due to their habitat have few trees to sweep. Sweeping the antlers harms the trees: bucks prefer to use isolated trunks and border plants for this purpose, the ability to sweep the individual bucks varies from person to person. Individual bucks only sweep a few trunks, while others in cultures cause massive damage to hundreds of plants. Sweeping damage is hardly avoidable, it only helps to fence in afforested crops or to protect trees individually, for example by sheathing the trunks with wire mesh. In comparison with the browsing damage that deer can cause in forests, the sweeping damage is minor.


The deer is a distinct odor-oriented animal. It is one of the so-called macrosmatists , as a high proportion of the nasal mucous membrane is covered with an olfactory epithelium ( olfactory mucous membrane ). There are around 320 million olfactory cells on the approximately 90 square centimeters olfactory epithelium. Deer are able to perceive even small odor stimuli and can smell a person from a distance of 300 to 400 meters.

The side-facing eyes allow the deer to see a wide area without turning its head. Deer react particularly to movement, the ability to recognize stationary objects is not very well developed. This is probably also the reason why deer raise and lower their heads conspicuously when belaying a stationary object. (When disturbed, deer straighten their heads and stare at the cause of the disturbance, often standing sideways. This characteristic behavior is called belaying.) Occasionally, they also move slowly and with their necks stretched out at a goose-step towards the suspicious phenomenon, from time to time they stomp on the ground. The behavior seems extremely curious to humans, but it is a behavior in which the deer clarifies the cause of its alarm. It can immediately precede an escape.

There is no uniform assessment of the performance of the sense of hearing , as deer react very differently to different sounds. Deer can get used to loud noises and are not bothered by the noise of a motorway or a shooting range while grazing. On the other hand, the soft cracking of a dry branch can cause them to secure and escape.


A barking sound is the most noticeable and most frequently audible utterance of the deer, it is referred to in the specialist literature as a "frightful sound", in the hunter's language as "fright". Bell sounds are usually heard when deer are startled but have not yet identified the cause of the disturbance. The sound expresses agitation and aggression rather than fear. A barking deer signals to the disturber, among other things, that it has discovered him - in this case, a further approach is pointless for a potential predator. The deer also uses barking to tell its fellow species where it is. In some regions you can hear deer barking for about half an hour in the morning and in the evening. Fawn and doe, on the other hand, lure each other with beeping sounds. Even during the rut, the doe calls for the buck with a beep. For the buck, on the other hand, a panting, whistling snort can often be heard when driving the doe or driving away another buck.

Barking deer


Two deer gallop in a field
Deer track in the snow

The deer has three different gaits. In the step, it puts the legs on the left back, left front, right back and right front. With the hind leg it almost steps into the footprint of the fore leg on the same side of the body. The stride length measures between 35 and 45 centimeters. The so-called troll or trot is a slightly faster gait in which two diagonal runs - for example, left front and right hind legs - are placed on the ground at the same time. Deer show this gait relatively rarely and only over short distances.

The deer's fastest gait is gallop, it consists of individual jumps in which both forelegs and both hind legs are placed on the ground almost simultaneously. The deer pushes itself off the ground with the help of the back muscles when stretching the hind legs, then moves through the air with a straight back without touching the ground and catches itself again with the forelegs. With a strongly curved back, the hind legs are then put back on before the footprints of the forelegs, the average jump distance is around four meters. Deer are not able to maintain this fast gait for long periods of time because their heart and lung performance is insufficient. Deer are good swimmers and able to cross bodies of water several kilometers wide.

distribution and habitat

Distribution area

Distribution area of ​​the European roe deer

The European deer is found in almost all of Europe as well as in parts of Asia Minor . On the Iberian Peninsula, the distribution area is patchy and due to the climatic conditions mainly limited to mountains. Deer occur in the Pyrenees , the Cantabrian and Iberian Mountains , the Montes de Toledo and in the province of Cádiz as well as in the region around Málaga . The latter is one of the most southerly distribution areas of the deer. The southern limit of distribution continues over the southern tip of Italy, the deer does not occur on Sicily or the other western Mediterranean islands. The deer was exterminated in the Peloponnese at the beginning of the 20th century, but it is still widespread on Olympus , on the Chalkidike and on some Greek islands. The range also includes northern Syria , northern Iraq , Israel to the Sea of ​​Galilee and Haifa, and Iran . The eastern border runs through Bulgaria and Romania, where deer occur in the entire country area, in a northerly direction via Kropywnyzkyj , Dnipro , Borisoglebsk , Voronezh , Oryol , the west of Moscow , the Volga reservoir, the Rybinsk reservoir , the west bank of the Ladoga lake along the eastern border Finland. In Scandinavia, the northern limit of distribution is on the Atlantic coast around the 65th degree of latitude, from the Baltic Sea areas of Sweden the distribution area extends in a narrow strip east of the Scandinavian Mountains to the Arctic Circle. Deer do not live in Ireland, but deer is widespread in Scotland and parts of England. Outside of its natural range, the deer has so far only been naturalized in Texas . There has not yet been an expansion of the area there.


Deer in the rye field
A deer stands at the edge of the forest and observes its surroundings
Observing deer at the edge of the forest

In the forest landscape of Europe the deer settled in forest clearings, forest edge zones as well as other, undergrowth rich and tree poor habitats such as floodplains, deltas and reeds that do not merge into forest landscapes. The forest areas, which are now crossed or surrounded by agricultural land, offer the deer significantly more living space. The stand density here is 10 to 20 times higher than in forest areas whose tree population shows a natural age structure. Optimal roe deer habitats consist of a close-meshed mosaic of forest and agricultural areas and have thickets, old wood, meadows and aisles and roadsides overgrown with bushes and herbs.

The altitude distribution ranges from the lowlands to alpine altitudes of 3,000 meters. However, it is rare in high alpine regions above the tree line and in open grasslands. Regions with severe winters and high, long-lasting snow conditions are unsuitable for deer, as it is difficult for them to move around and get food in deep snow. Deer overwinter in such regions, sometimes in relatively small-scale areas, where less snow accumulates due to topographical features. Deer are also successful cultural followers that also colonize habitats that have been heavily transformed by humans. Due to their relatively small size, even small remnants of forest or hedges are sufficient as cover. Accordingly, deer also colonize the open agricultural steppe. A distinction is made between the forest and field deer ecotypes. While the deer still settles in habitats close to the forest, the deer is at home in the open agricultural landscape with little cover and has mainly switched its diet to field crops. Roe deer, however, return to the forest edge zone that is optimal for them and change their diet and behavior when the density of deer in these zones decreases.

In regions with a high population of fallow deer , sika deer or red deer , deer tend to be rarer. Exact studies on the interspecific behavior of deer towards other animal species are not yet available, but deer leave the grazing areas when fallow deer approach. Deer keep even more distance from red deer, here too the rutting behavior of red deer seems to be too unsettling. In several regions, an increase in roe deer populations was demonstrated when the red deer population decreased. Sika deer also displace deer. The behavior of the deer is different towards wild boars . Where wild boars are frequent and also leave their dwellings during the day, both species occasionally look for food in the same areas. In contrast, deer react to wild boars at dusk and in the dark with a protective behavior.

Settlement of new habitats

Basically, deer strive to stay in the habitat in which they were born. However, above a certain population density this is no longer possible. The decisive factor is the biotically sustainable game density , i.e. H. the population density at which body, antler and weight development of deer corresponds to the genetic and environmental possibilities. It is usually well below the grazing capacity of an area. If the biotically sustainable game density is exceeded, deer react due to the associated stress with weight loss and a reduction in their disease resistance, an expansion of the population into areas previously free of roe deer begins. Where new habitat is no longer available, fawn mortality is higher, the fertilization rate is lower and the fawn sex ratio is shifted in favor of the males.

The colonization of new regions by deer has been observed and described more closely in the course of the 20th century in the area of ​​the karst region around Trieste , on newly formed polders in the Netherlands , the island of Fehmarn and large-scale agricultural areas in the Hungarian Tisza region . First of all, constitutionally strong one to two year old bucks open up a new habitat because they migrate further than is the case with females of the same age. In the new, less competitive area, these bucks can develop very physically. If they enlarge their range of action in winter in search of grazing, they will also encounter other deer leaps on the edge of the established population. From these jumps they follow one-year-old doe at the end of winter. Three to five years after the first settlement, the number of deer in the newly settled area is growing rapidly because the young females, who are in good shape due to the availability of grazing, raise many young animals. The young bucks born here with good physical fitness also migrate to regions that are less densely populated or not yet populated. Migrations of more than twenty kilometers are the exception, on average the deer do not migrate further than about two kilometers.

Social and spatial behavior

Deer stay within a certain, definable action area . Adult animals are very faithful to their location. The boundaries of the action space of a single animal or a jump are based on existing topographical lines such as field edges, embankments, paths, roads and hedges. The size of the area varies according to the season, biotope, grazing, age and sex of the animals. As a rule, the activity areas are smaller in summer than in the other seasons. In summer, deer live individually because they are in direct competition with one another as selectors .

Within their action space, deer prefer quiet zones that allow them an optimal overview of the surroundings. Resting places can often be found on hilltop edges or slope terraces. Raised berths have acoustic advantages, as the hearing range is increased and they are more winded, so that deer can smell potential interferers more quickly. Because they are more exposed to the wind, raised berths are cooler, especially in warm weather. At the same time, deer can visually recognize enemies from a greater distance and escape an encounter by fleeing briefly. In the vicinity of streets, on the other hand, the storage area is chosen in such a way that visual contact by crouching or slowly retreating can be avoided.

Territorial behavior of the bucks

Scent glands of the roebuck used to mark the territory

Adult bucks usually occupy real territories, which are delimited by visual and scent markings and temporarily defended against other bucks. The territories overlap, if at all, only at their borders. They are often filled for several consecutive years. Changes in vegetation, for example due to clearing, planting or changes in agricultural cultivation methods usually do not lead to a buck that has once established itself shifting its territorial boundaries or giving up its territory. In principle, in areas with a low density of deer, where there are around two to four bucks per 100 hectares, all perennial bucks occupy a territory. As the population becomes denser, the age of territorial bucks tends to be higher, the number of non-territorial bucks increases and the size of buck territories decreases at the same time. When establishing territories, age, fighting instinct and experience, but also chance play a role. Antler volume or number of antlers, on the other hand, are irrelevant.

In Scotland the size of the hunting grounds in regions with a low number of deer was up to 35 hectares, in contrast , in a wooded area in the north of England that corresponds very closely to the habitat requirements of deer , the average was only 7.4 hectares. A size of less than five hectares does not seem to be undercut, even with extensive supplementary feeding. Roebucks, however, are not always territorial: This applies to regions with a very low population density of deer or if there are too many competitors, for example if they are kept in gates. Even in high alpine habitats, where the action areas shift uphill from spring to summer, there is only a hint of territoriality for the bucks.

Young, non-territorial bucks either roam the territories of several adult bucks, stay in the edge zone between two territories or become so-called "satellite bucks", which are tolerated by the territorial buck in its territory due to their non-aggressive behavior.

Spatial behavior of the doe / goat

Ricken do not live territorially in the sense that they demarcate an area over a longer period of time by marking and drive their conspecifics out of it. However, due to the long development phase of the fawns, does have to rely on solitary occupying a small action space during the first weeks after the birth of the offspring. Threatening, imposing and chasing away defend these small action spaces against other doe. Ricken adapt their so-called seating places to the respective conditions. Ideally, a large, easily digestible and high-energy range of food, sufficient coverage and a dry and warm microclimate meet on the smallest possible area. Such areas can be less than one hectare in size in the first few days after planting, and then doe gradually expand the rearing area they use.

Deer do occasionally migrate, but they often stay close to the maternal summer area and rejoin the mother and its fawns in autumn. They often remain in the edge area of ​​the mother's activity area even when they are leading fawns themselves. Relatives Ricken therefore live in a clan territory that only slightly overlaps with other clan territories. These ricky clans consist of two to four leading doe with the associated fawns, bucks and narrow lobes. As a rule, Ricken only form common leaps with members of the same clan. Narrow turning rarely succeeds in joining a foreign clan. It took place where it was observed because the narrow turning had joined the territorial goat.

Jump formation

A leaping deer

Roe deer form associations called jumps at the beginning of autumn, when the rut is over. A jump is a number of deer that are in the same place at the same time, move in the same direction at the same time and maintain individual distances of a maximum of 50 meters. The high intra-species tolerance is an energy-saving adaptation to the low protein food supply in the winter half-year .

The composition and size of cracks depend on the population density, the gender ratio, the characteristics of the habitat and the food supply. In forest areas with low population density, a lot of cover and a good supply of food, the jumps are small and often consist of only two to four individuals. Deer that colonize the open agricultural landscape, on the other hand, can form significantly larger associations. In contrast to red deer packs, there are not necessarily more intensive social relationships and bonds between the deer in a jump. Ferdinand von Raesfeld speaks of an almost random composition.

In most cases, jumps are made by a doe that has at least one fawn. In the event of a fault, it determines the direction of escape. Jumps begin to dissolve again in late winter , shortly before the fawns are born in May, this dissolution phase is completed.

Behavior adjustment of the field deer

Young deer in Mecklenburg

Deer also occur in the modern agricultural landscape, in which forests and field trees are rare or even completely absent. According to the definition of the Working Group on Wildlife Biology and Hunting Science, deer are called field deer if they have a positive behavior adjustment to this habitat: They have given up some of their territorial behavior and do not flee into the protective bush or forest, but at a distance into the open field. They spend most of their time there instead of moving from the forest to the field and back every day. They live a large part of the year in jumps and, especially in the winter months, show a behavior that is reminiscent of the typical herd animals of the steppe zone. Often such jumps include 30 to 40 animals, in severe and snowy winters even up to 100 animals. The tendency to form larger groups in the absence of cover also occurs in other deer species that inhabit both forest landscapes and open areas. Comparable examples are axis deer , sambar , pig deer and white-tailed deer .

Deer were first observed on Polish territory in the first half of the 20th century, the team of authors led by Ferdinand von Raesfeld described the behavior of this ecotype, which was later also observed in other European regions, as “a renewed, amazing adaptation to changed environmental conditions.” In the Chur Rhine Valley came one comes to the conclusion that deer occurring in open agricultural landscapes do not live in closed groups or clans, but rather enter into location-dependent relationships with many individuals in the same space. This allows deer to make the best possible use of the strongly fluctuating resources in intensively used agricultural landscapes. In winter in particular, deer spend the whole day on almost uncovered areas, but areas rich in grazing due to winter grain and inter- sowing. They are easy to spot, but the large group means that approaching enemies are noticed early. For the individual member of a large group, the probability of being attacked by a predator decreases. Individuals of a large jump accordingly spend half as much time observing their surroundings as deer living alone or in pairs.

Vision plays a more important role in the behavior of the field deer than in forest turning. The members of a jump always take opposite positions when resting, which guarantee a panoramic view. If a deer is worried, it stands up and spreads the long white hair of the mirror outwards, so that the mirror more than doubles in size. Other deer in the vicinity become aware of the disturbance and also begin to secure. The escape of a single deer triggers the escape of the entire jump and can even be carried over to neighboring jumps. The escape distance from Feld Turning is long. In fifty percent of the cases examined stocks reacted to disturbances at a distance of 800 meters and then fled over an average distance of 400 meters. This long escape distance compensates for the lack of cover. In spring, when there is more cover due to the higher field crops, the cracks disintegrate, but this occurs later than in forest regions. During the setting and rutting season, bucks and doe occupy fixed territories, which, however, tend to be larger than deer in the forest. The goats lack the typical battles with threatening gestures and chases. It is assumed that the male members of a jump know their position in the hierarchy precisely because they live together all the time.

Food and subsistence

Roebuck eating an oak branch
Large witchweed , a plant that deer likes to eat

Deer are ruminants , but measured by their size they have a relatively small rumen with a low degree of filling. They also only have two blind sacks instead of the three so characteristic of ruminants. But the rumen mucous membrane is more densely covered with rumen villi than is the case with many other ruminating ungulates. This increases the total surface of the rumen and thus the amount of substance added to the bloodstream per unit of time. Deer are known as “selectors” because they only prefer easily digestible food. In Switzerland, particularly extensive studies on the grazing behavior of deer have been carried out. Five grazing periods could be distinguished there:

  • Grasses and buds from mid-March to late April
  • Deciduous shoots and monocot herbs from early May to late June
  • Dicotyledonous herbs and leaf shoots from mid-June to mid-October. During this time, the number of species that can generally be considered as grazing plants is greatest and includes around 134 different species.
  • Horsetail, ferns and club moss family as well as buds and blackberries from mid-October to mid-December
  • Grasses, buds and blackberries from early January to mid-March.

The plants are fed from the ground up to a height of 120 centimeters. However, deer prefer to eat the parts of the plant that are about 75 centimeters above the ground. A deer weighing around 20 kilograms needs between two and four kilograms of green matter to cover its daily energy needs. With a natural feed composition, a deer also needs around 1350 milliliters of water for every 10 kilograms of live weight. As a rule, natural food contains so much moisture that it does not have to drink. With increasing drought, however, deer can be seen regularly at water points.

The metabolism of deer has been studied in particular on roebucks. Two periods in the year could be determined in which the roebuck increased particularly strongly. In Central Europe, these rainy periods fall from March to July and from early September to early November. Roebucks gain up to 20 percent of their initial weight during this time. The reserves built up in spring are reduced again during the rut in July and August. The reserves created in autumn are used to bridge the energy deficit in winter. In the suckling doe and the growing fawns, the protein requirement is very high, especially in summer. Suckling doe increase their energy intake by up to 150 percent compared to non-lactating doe.

Food crops

Deer in rapeseed

Deer recognize plants they know by their smell and taste, they usually only develop new food plants gradually. In a series of tests it has been found that if the deer are in sufficient nutritional condition, there is at least one rumination period between the ingestion of two different new alder plants. Any malaise that may occur is associated with the Äspplant and then avoided. A fawn usually imitates the mother animal in its eating behavior; in test series, mother animals even attacked fawns when they wanted to eat something that the mother animals did not know.

The composition of a deer's food depends on what is available and the individual taste, but in general it is always very diverse. Plants that deer eat particularly often include bilberry , large witch's herb , forest ziest , common hollow tooth , ivy , hornbeam , heather , red dogwood , common privet and common hazel . Research shows, however, that deer do not graze the same plants with the same preference everywhere. Deer in the Swabian Alb , for example, like to eat wild strawberries , but less often in the Swiss Plateau. Both in the Swabian Alb and in the Swiss Plateau, the Turkish Federation is so dogged by deer that it rarely blooms there. On the other hand, it is not bitten much on the limestone soils west of the Leinetal near Göttingen. The buckthorn is very strongly bitten by deer in the region around Krakow , in Germany this tree species is considered to be resistant to teeth. Most of the fawn plants valued by deer are nitrogen-indicating and therefore particularly protein-rich plants. However, there are exceptions such as the stinking cranesbill , which is poor in nutrients and whose minerals are present in an unfavorable ratio. However, this strongly scented plant is severely bitten by deer wherever it grows, which is an indication that fragrances and flavors have a significant influence on the degree of bite. Plants that are rich in tannins such as walnuts , tormenti or pent-pods, or plants protected by hair such as mullein or stinging nettle as well as particularly poisonous plants such as lily of the valley , daphne , belladonna or red foxglove are avoided by the deer.

Deer also graze on agricultural land. Oilseed rape is one of the crops that are particularly bitten and plays a major role in the nutrition of the deer in intensively used agricultural landscapes, especially in spring. Barley , on the other hand, is only branched as a young plant, while the short-awned wheat and oat varieties are preferred grazing plants in midsummer. In addition, storage areas in the grain can cause damage. In general, however, it is assumed that a roe deer population that is appropriate to the habitat and grazing conditions does not cause any significant game damage in the field. It is different with forest damage caused by deer browsing.

Forest damage

In the case of excessive game density without an adequate nutritional basis, the entire forest flora can become significantly impoverished. The sharp increase in recent years Rehbestände of wildlife biologists have in the opinion Fred Kurt "reached a level that their effects that the forest vegetation accept natural disasters." The browsing damage to browsing it comes, among others, are important for forest regeneration tree species such as spruce , Beech , fir and hardwoods. Browsing damage can be divided into the following three categories:

  • The reduction of the natural regeneration of the forest through the biting of seedlings and young forest plants
  • The demixing of the forest stock through selective browsing of the tree species preferred by the deer, but only mixed in small proportions
  • The growth inhibition by browsing the main shoot and the side shoots on perennial forest plants.
  • Deformations and damage to the stems caused by browsing

In the literature on the protection of roe deer, the reduction of forest damage takes up a lot of space. The discussed options concentrate on reducing the number of deer by shooting them down, hunting techniques and strategies that reduce bite size (forest hunting instead of field hunting, focus hunting), preventive measures such as fencing in crops that are particularly worthy of protection or protecting individual trees, as well as the demand for forest management that is more suitable for game. The latter is supposed to ensure sufficient natural grazing. An attempt is also made to counteract the damage caused by browsing by feeding in periods with little vegetation.

In addition to browsing, the deer bucking young trees causes damage, which means that protective measures are considerably more complex, as the protection period can be 10 years or more.

daily routine

Typical daily activity pattern of roebucks in the Bavarian Forest National Park and its surroundings over the course of a year - note the activity peaks during the morning and evening hours as well as in the rutting season in early / mid-August

The deer is considered to be an originally diurnal animal that needs between eight and eleven grazing periods during 24 hours. The daily routine of deer is dominated by foraging, grazing and ruminating. In spring and summer, deer spend six hours a day grazing and ruminating. They rest for another six hours, sleep four hours, and spend two hours a day moving around. In autumn and winter they spend an hour more each on grazing and ruminating, during this time they rest less, sleep only three hours and roam around their territory for three hours.

The high proportion of foraging, grazing and ruminating in the deer's daily routine is due to the low nutritional value of the food. A single grazing cycle - visiting the grazing site, eating and ruminating - takes an average of around two hours. In the wooded areas of the northern Swiss Plateau, the highlights of the individual grazing cycles fell at 5:30 a.m., 9:00 a.m., 10:30 a.m., 12:00 p.m., 1:45 p.m., 3:00 p.m., 6:00 p.m., and 9:00 p.m. : 00 h, 23:30 h, 1:00 h and 3:00 h. The grazing cycles shift in the event of disruptions, and the probability increases that deer will cause game damage in the forest by grazing on trees, as they then do not step out into open spaces but graze on trees. Deer, which are often disturbed by humans during the day, also become increasingly nocturnal. Deer mainly use moonlit nights. After such nights, significantly fewer deer can be seen grazing during the day. In addition to disturbances from humans, high snow cover, rainy weather or strong wind also mean that deer do without grazing cycles.

A deer that wants to sit down to rest first scratches a bed with its forelegs. Then it settles on the tarsus, sits on the right or left thigh, and turns over the forelegs. There is always only one fore or hind leg on one side under the body. In this posture, the deer can chew, doze or sleep again. While dozing the head stays high, occasionally they even chew their cuds again while dozing. Sound sleep is limited to a few short periods in the daily rhythm that occur irregularly. The eyes are then closed, the head is either on the ground or on the flank between the trunk and hind legs. Odors or quiet noises are not perceived during sleep. Deer that stand up after resting or sleeping first stretch , occasionally paralyzing and scratching themselves with the shells of their hind legs . They lick each other and then switch to the eating place. Unlike the red deer, the deer does not wallow .

Course of the year

Annual course of the deer (buck) s. Sweeping and dropping refer to the antlers


Armed conflicts between goats can occur all year round. After the rut and in the winter months, fighting is usually limited to threatening, imposing and chasing away. The fights are particularly intense in May, when the imposing and threatening behavior lasts for minutes and hunts take place over several hundred meters. As a rule, bucks perceive themselves at a distance of 30 to 300 meters and react to this initially with belaying, the head is raised, the ears open to the front and often a foreleg is angled. The two goats then approach each other to five to ten meters and then threaten and impress again. The neck protrudes vertically upwards when imposing, the head is turned to the side and the ears are laid back. When threatening, however, the buck straddles its legs, lowers its head and thrusts its antlers in the direction of its rival. This is often accompanied by a scratching with one of the forelegs (so-called squatting ). Threatening also includes violently hitting the ground with one of the hind legs. Bucks of equal strength then suddenly chase next to each other over a distance of 20 to 80 meters and then start again with threats and imposing.

Before the actual fight, the goats step towards each other with goose-step, while they hit the ground again with their hind legs. As soon as the two opponents are directly facing each other, they lower their heads at the same time and the actual shock fight begins. The fighting is not a damage fight, but a commentary fight that proceeds according to ritualized behavioral sequences. With opponents of equal strength, there is often a circular turning. The stronger buck is often only determined after several attempts; at the threat of the stronger goat, the loser pauses briefly in a humble position with the neck held horizontally and the ears turned forward. Then he escapes.

Fatal outcomes are occasionally encountered. There are roebucks that behave atypically and attack their opponent from the side (so-called forking ). Occasionally, the antlers of the two bucks fighting differ so much that they do not hang together, but hit the opponent's forehead directly. The skull can then be penetrated when it is hit.

The actual rut takes place in Central Europe from around the beginning of July to the second third of August; it tends to start earlier after mild winters than after long and cold ones. The last weeks of the rutting season are also referred to as the leaf time , because then most of the doe are covered and bucks are lured by hunters through "leaves", the imitation of the howling of ruthless doe. In contrast to the males, the rutting season of the doe is short and only lasts about four days. In general, older and physically strong doe are ready to mate earlier than young and weak doe. For older doe, the rutting period begins about 67 days after the birth of their fawn.


Roebucks become aware of doe ready to mate by smelling and usually follow their trail into the immediate vicinity. A doe usually reacts to an approaching buck with an escape of an average of 500 meters, the buck follows it. In the pre-rut this so-called hustle and bustle can go on for hours and even days. Only when the doe is ready to receive does it suddenly stop suddenly during such a bustle. The buck catching up smells and then licks the doe. Standing frontally or laterally in front of the buck with its head bowed, the doe then prompts him to mate, slowly walking on, the buck following her with elongated neck and head. The buck impresses again and then rides up to mate. Doctors in poor physical shape often interrupt the rutting prelude by allowing only a short distance to follow them and then lying down. The buck also occasionally breaks off the rutting prelude if the doe does not show all of the behavioral sequences associated with mating behavior.

During the rut, bucks lose a lot of body weight due to the violent drifting of the doe and the often long search for ruthless doe. In general, they only mate with very few doe, usually they stay near them during the four days that a doe rutting. Only in areas where there is a shortage of goats, several does are alternately driven and shod by one goat.


Ultrasound image of the uterus of a pregnant doe

In contrast to other deer species, deer dormancy occurs . The fertilized egg does not develop until December and in Central Europe leads to the birth of young animals ( fawns ) mainly in May and June of the following year. About 80 percent of the fawns are born in a period of 20 to 30 days, the total gestation period averages 290 days or 9.5 months. Observations of the sowing times in the Danube valley near Ingolstadt and in the Kochelsee lowlands in the 1970s have shown that does plant their fawns correspondingly later in late spring. From this one concludes that deer are able to control their gestation time depending on the grazing so that the fawns are set in the most favorable time. The ability to dormancy appears to be a unique adaptation among ungulates. It enables the rut and suckling season to coincide and take place in a time of year in which there is a large and high-quality range of grazing.

Shortly before birth, the doe chooses a place to sit, usually a little overgrown area near good thickets. In hay grass meadows, the places to sit are around two square meters in which the doe has rolled down the grass. During the birthing process, the doe lie on their side, only rarely do they stand with straddled, slightly angled hind legs. The length of the birthing process depends on the number of fawns; it usually lasts between four and five hours and is therefore relatively long compared to other ungulates. Roe deer can give birth to between one and four young. Of 573 doe observed in the Bern region, 224 gave birth to a single fawn, 306 twins, 41 triplets and two quadruplets. The number of fawns per birth depends on the age of the doe and their physical condition. Immediately after birth, the fawns try to free themselves from the embryonic shell and after three to ten minutes make soft, high-pitched contact sounds. The mother then tries to clean the newborn by licking it. It also cleans the plants and soil from blood, embryonic shell and afterbirth, whereby the weather marks from the setting and from the newborn disappear. Fawns begin their first attempts to stand six to twenty minutes after they are born. Usually a fawn can stand for half an hour to an hour and a half after birth, and after one to three hours it tries its first steps. After two days, a fawn can fully coordinate the runs, but only gallop after three to four days. The eyesight is poor in the first two hours, during this time orientation is based solely on hearing.

Imprinting phase

Fawn in the grass, Ardennes

Fawns stay in cover for around three to four weeks while the mother feeds and returns to suckle the fawn. The fawn usually lies on the ground in a rolled up prone position. The individual fawn makes its own choice of where to lie and is only influenced by the mother in so far as it tries to find places of birth that offer rich undergrowth or good privacy from above. The set-off is an instinctive act of fawns, already three-day fawns would be able to follow, the dam over longer distances. The fact that the young animal remains in one place is energetically sensible for both the mother and the young. Doe, whose fawns were active, secure more and graze less. Resting fawns use little of the food they eat for movement and accordingly have a higher growth rate. At the same time, remaining in cover is the best possible adaptation to high pressure from predators.

Fawns choose places under bushes with low-hanging branches or zones with 30 to 60 centimeters high vegetation as their resting places. These berths change daily, on average the next berth is between 100 and 200 meters from the old one. The fawns of a mother animal do not seek common resting places, but are usually twenty to eighty meters apart in cover at the latest one day after birth. The distance can become even greater in the first few days of life. Fawns that have not been nursed for a long time begin to make soft fiii noises . These contact sounds gradually increase to a two-syllable fiii-ie , which the fawn utters 30 to 40 times in extreme cases. A high-pitched, bright beeping sound is the fawn's alarm call or scream of fear, which usually triggers the mother animal to rush over. Does defend their fawns with frontal blows against cats, foxes, dogs and, if necessary, people. In response to disturbances such as rapid movements in their vicinity, noise or a strange smell, fawns remain rigidly pressed to the ground. The legs are angled, the stretched neck is pressed to the ground. Escape behavior - for example in front of mowers - does not start until the age of three to four weeks. After that, only very high enemy stimuli trigger pushing oneself against the ground. For example, it was observed in significantly older animals when they could no longer escape from approaching people.

Doctors accept strangers' fawns up to the third week after birth if they are the same as their own offspring; conversely, fawns up to three weeks old can join strange doe. Such adoptions mainly occur when the population density is very high and the doe places are not far apart. From attempts to mix them up, it has been concluded that the fawns' individual odor plays a subordinate role in the first few weeks of life. Typical for young fawns is a smell of sour milk and urine. The milk gets on the fur of the fawns, if they lick themselves after suckling, since they urinate usually lying down, their fur is also moistened with urine. The imprinting phase between the fawn and the mother ends between the third and fifth week and cannot be reversed. Compared to other hoofed game species, this imprinting takes place very late and the imprinting process takes a very long time.

Development from four weeks of age

Feeding young animal
Doe with teats

From around four weeks of age, fawns begin to accompany their mother. Fawns stay as close as possible to the mother animal and prefer its slipstream so that they can smell it all the time. They then also have contact with their siblings of the same age. During this time, the doe and their fawns' scope for action increases significantly. At the same time, many alder plants become lignified and the food becomes more difficult to digest and less protein. As a rule, doe only allow suckling twice a day. Most fawns will stop suckling at ten weeks of age.

Between the fourth week of life and an age of around six months, fawns learn most of the elements of fighting, rutting and marking behavior in playful confrontations with their peers. This includes, among other things, imposing and humble behavior, threatening movements towards conspecifics are initiated from the fifth or sixth month with scratching movements of the forelegs. As a rule, however, the individual behavior patterns do not yet form behavior sequences like those shown by adult deer during arguments. Between mid-March and mid-May, the mother families disintegrate. Buck fawns usually separate from their mother earlier than rickkeys. During this time, the mother animal no longer requests its offspring from the previous year to follow suit and increasingly shows aggressive behavior towards the older young animals. The young animals migrate at a time when the availability of grazing is very good. As a rule, the young animals of the previous year find an oversummer habitat in a region less than five kilometers from their place of birth. Young bucks tend to migrate further than young goats.

Weight development

Fawns with fur pattern

Female fawns weigh between 1,200 and 1,900 grams at birth. Male fawns are a bit heavier and weigh between 1,300 and 2,300 grams. The birth weight is influenced by the general condition of the dam, its age and the number of siblings: single fawns are generally heavier than multiple fawns. In general, older and stronger doe also put heavier fawns. Up until the point in time when they switch from milk to plant food, the fawns' weight development depends on the milk production of the mother animal and the prevailing climatic conditions. Especially cold and damp weather delays the weight gain of the fawns.

During the suckling period, fawns gain between 74 and 207 grams per day. From the third week of life, fawns begin to eat green fodder themselves and switch completely to plant food in the seventh to tenth week of life. From then on, the daily weight gain drops to an average of 55 grams. The conversion of the fawns to green food is encouraged by the doe. Up to the age of four weeks, fawns kept in captivity suckled nine to eleven times a day for 30 seconds each, consuming around 40 milliliters of milk each. This corresponds to the daily milk production of a doe with triplets of 1.2 liters, which brings it to the edge of its physical capacity. This also indicates that if one of the fawns is lost in enclosure conditions, doe immediately reduce their food intake. From the fourth day of life, doe no longer let their fawns suckle at any time and evade with jerky steps or small escapes.

In Central Europe, fawns reach their preliminary final weight in late autumn (end of November). They then weigh between nine and twenty kilograms. The weight you then achieve is decisive for your chances of survival in the coming winter. Fawns that weigh less than 12.5 kilograms have only a small chance of survival, even in mild winters. This is presumably due to the fact that the relation between the energy-emitting body surface and possible energy expenditure becomes too unfavorable with reduced digestibility of food in winter.

The further weight development is completed in female animals in the second to third year of life, in male goats generally in the third year of life. Especially with the goats, not only the quality of the habitat is decisive for the development, but also the density of game. If the population is high, bucks grow more slowly from the second year of life and, as perennial animals, reach a lower weight than bucks that grow in regions with a low density of game.

Predators and other causes of mortality


Left branch of the lower jaw of a 1-year-old roebuck. PM premolar , M molar (tooth) , * rest of the milk tooth above the 3rd premolar
Left branch of the lower jaw of an approximately 5-year-old roebuck. The tooth wear is clearly visible

In wild deer, tooth wear is usually so severe that they rarely reach an age of more than ten to twelve years. Due to the loss of their molars in particular, they are no longer able to chew their food. The oldest deer, the age of which could be determined with certainty from markings, were a doe, which reached an age of 20.5 years, and a buck at 17 years and two months. A doe kept in an enclosure reached an age of 25 years. When hunting, the age of a hunted deer is determined by the extent of tooth wear.

In general, the average age of a deer population is very low. Only 15 percent of all deer in a population are older than three or four years, with an average age of 2.4 years for western Polish deer populations. Depending on the environmental conditions and population density, only five to seven of ten newborn fawns live on average after eight months. In general, 40 percent of deaths in roe deer populations are caused by factors other than hunting.


Red fox

Due to their small size, deer have significantly more predators than other European ungulates such as elk , bison or red deer. Scandinavian sources name the following predators that have been shown to prey on deer: golden eagle , wild cat , wild boar , domestic dog , red fox , wolverine and wolf . Only three species are really significant as predatory predators. These are red fox, lynx and wolf.

Red foxes are able to kill adult deer when high snowfall prevents deer from moving. But they usually only prey on fawns that are not older than two months. Studies in different countries and at different times have shown the influence of the red fox on the deer population: For the Bernese Mittelland it is estimated that a fox prey on an average of eleven fawns in the months from May to July. In Scandinavia, where mange led to a drastic decline in the red fox population in the late 1970s and 1980s , the number of fawns a doe carried on average in the fall rose by 30 percent. On the Norwegian island of Jöa, red foxes captured almost half of the fawns in their first months of life. On the island of Storfosna, not far from Jöa, where there are no foxes, only 18 percent of the newborns died. In addition, significantly more fawns fell victim to the fox on Jöa and took cover in meadows. It is believed that red foxes may infer where the fawns have taken cover from the behavior of the doe.

Eurasian lynx

For the lynx , which is rare in Central Europe , the deer is the preferred prey, deer often make up more than 80 percent of its prey spectrum. In the Bavarian Forest , for example, 71 of the 102 lynx prey found were deer. Lynx can be an important mortality factor for deer regardless of the population density of the deer: In Switzerland, where more than 20 deer per square kilometer occur, the lynx kill around four percent of the population every year. In Poland, where the population is only two to five individuals per square kilometer, on the other hand, up to 37 percent of the population. Some authors believe that the lynx has a positive impact on the roe deer population.

Wolves, which are also rare in Central Europe, prefer to hunt in intact forests with high numbers of red deer. Even wild boars are a more frequent prey than roe deer. The situation is different in regions where the forest has more agricultural areas and the red deer population is correspondingly lower. However, the importance of the deer as a prey animal increases when the wolf packs are small or when a wolf hunts individually. So far, no conclusive studies are available on the influence of the wolf on deer populations. In the south of Sweden, where deer are struck relatively often by wolves, the deer population even increased during the study period as a result of a mild winter, although they were the main prey here. In the Białowieża National Park , deer make up between 14.7 and 18.4 percent of the wolves' diet.

Poaching dogs can seriously endanger a roe deer population. In the open field, a persistently rushing dog will manage to grab any healthy deer because deer are not persistent runners. Often poaching dogs also occur in pairs, with one dog frightening the deer and the other grabbing them. They are especially dangerous when they rush in silence, because then the roe deer will notice them too late. In the Białowieża Primeval Forest, five percent of the case game is attributed to poaching dogs every year. Domestic cats occasionally kill fawns, while wild cats more often. In deep snow, wild cats can also beat weakened adult deer. In areas with a high density of wild boar, there can be significant losses of fawns.

Influence of climate and population density

A particularly early onset of winter and a harsh winter lead to direct losses in all age groups, but they also lead to the death and resorption of the embryos . Young and old deer mainly fall victim to periods of severe frost. In general, there is a clear dependency between population density, winter food supply, parasite infestation and the number of dead deer. It plays a role here that starving deer are more susceptible to parasite infestation.

Bad weather periods are considered to be one of the main causes of young animal mortality. In wet and cold weather, they use up their fat reserves within a very short time and run the risk of hypothermia. In principle, more fawns die in wet years than in sunny years. The influence of the climate can also be measured by comparing the Oberaargau and the Upper Engadine . In the climatically favorable Oberaargau, deer usually lead one or two fawns in autumn , whereas in the inner alpine high valley of the Upper Engadine only every second doe is accompanied by a fawn.

The population density also has an effect on the mortality rate. The average number of embryos per doe already decreases with a high number of deer. If doe are also forced to switch to less favorable setting and rearing areas due to a high population density, a significantly higher number of young animals die. Studies by the wildlife biologist Felix Kurt in the Bernese Mittelland have shown that in a specific area with a low female density, the doe had an average of 1.3 fawns in autumn. At high density, however, there are only 0.5 fawns. The competition for suitable action spaces for the female animals also leads to a shift in the gender ratio in the offspring. When the density is low, there are roughly as many male as female fawns. In unfavorable rearing areas, on the other hand, twice as many buck fawns as rickkeys are found. This is based, among other things, on the fact that, in the first few weeks of life, buck fawns have a higher chance of survival due to their higher birth weight.

Diseases and parasite infestation

One of the diseases that can affect deer is rabies , which is usually transmitted to the deer by the fox. It is invariably fatal in deer, deer suffering from rabies have a fixed stare and are particularly noticeable due to unnatural behavior and / or movement disorders. In 1980 deer accounted for 436 of the 8,659 rabies cases in what is now the Federal Republic of Germany. Anthrax was one of the more common bacterial diseases of deer in the 19th century, but has become rare in the 20th century. Deer can also get tuberculosis , mostly of the cattle type . However, there are only isolated cases. More often, a parasite infestation leads to the death of the deer. Deer are attacked by flukes such as large and small liver fluke , tapeworms and nematodes . As a parasite, nematodes are of greatest importance to roe deer. With high population density, damp habitats and in times of heavy rainfall, epidemic-like courses can occur. Deer heavily infested with nematodes such as the twisted stomach worm ( Haemonchus contortus ) suffer from severe, acute anemia , which is often fatal. Lungworm infestation such as the large lungworm , on the other hand, is usually benign. Death usually only occurs when the organism is additionally weakened by other causes. Similarly, when larvae of revenge brake or warble fly parasites in Rehkörper.

Road traffic and agricultural work losses

Deer losses through road traffic (see game accident ) can be very high. The number depends on the population and traffic density, the road network, the season, the distribution of forest and field areas and the respective Äsungs offers. The Federal Republic of Germany is one of the countries with the largest traffic losses among roe deer, because a high density of roe deer and traffic come together here. According to statistics from the German Hunting Association , 200,000 deer fell victim to traffic over a period of twelve months in 2005/2006, which corresponds to around 20 percent of the annual distance traveled in the same period. Measures to prevent traffic accidents have been investigated in numerous Western European countries. One of the most effective protective measures is the erection of fences that are at least 1.5 meters high. There should also be overpasses or underpasses that allow the deer to change. So-called green bridges are also used, which are built at traditional game passes.

Fawns are very endangered by agricultural machinery. The Research Center for Hunting and Game Damage Prevention of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia estimated in 1982 the number of deer killed annually by agricultural machines in the area of ​​the old Federal Republic of Germany at 60,000. The number has probably decreased somewhat since then: This is due, on the one hand, to the fact that the mowing dates are earlier and therefore the grass is lower, especially in hay meadows. Doctors use such meadows less for throwing their young and young animals are more easily discovered. Farmers also need to before mowing measures for wildlife rescue take. This includes, for example, mowing the meadow the day before, specifically keeping the game away before mowing, searching the meadow and similar measures. In the Federal Republic of Germany, failure to take such measures to rescue game can have criminal consequences for the farmer. In addition to the so-called mowing of young animals, stray dogs occasionally tear down fawns and older young animals.

Inventory development

The deer is a very common species in the European cultural landscape, and in some regions it has such a high population density that deer prevent natural forest regeneration. The high numbers only came about in the course of the 20th century; they can be found in the entire distribution area.

Exact inventory figures from earlier centuries are not available. But there are numerous indicators that deer populations used to be very low. Based on the finds, we know that in the Mesolithic period , deer were rare prey in comparison to wild horses , reindeer, red deer and bison . Even in the Neolithic Age , deer predominated by far as prey. In excavations near pile dwellings in the Zurich area, which can be dated to the end of the Bronze Age , even such defensive prey as the primal and the bear are found many times more often than the deer. The number of bones found does not allow conclusions to be drawn about the size of the game population, but if a population counts animals such as ibex, chamois, wild ducks, hawks and golden eagles among their prey, while the deer are only sparsely represented, one can conclude from this that it only occurred relatively rarely. Also in hunting reports of the early modern period such as the hunting diaries of Emperor Karl VI. the deer is rarely mentioned. Around 1809 the deer was almost extinct in Switzerland. Only in the course of the 19th century do hunting statistics indicate a growing roe population. According to such statistics, there were three to five deer per 100 hectares in Austria around 1860, five to eight around 1910, and ten to fifteen around 1970. The recovery of the deer population in Scandinavia was particularly spectacular. Around 1700 it was still widespread in Scandinavia, towards the end of the 18th and 19th centuries, the populations were greatly reduced by very cold winters, many wolves and intensive hunting. Around 1830 there was only a remaining population of around 100 individuals in Skåne , the southernmost Swedish province. Strict protective measures and closed seasons meant that, based on this residual population, most of Norway and Sweden and part of Finland are now repopulated.

The beginning of the sharp increase in the deer population coincides with the decline in the red deer population in the 19th century. After the revolution in 1848, hunting was no longer the privilege of the nobility, but hunting rights were tied to land ownership in many European countries. The farmers, who in the past often saw their existence threatened by the high game populations thanks to the overheight, ensured a drastic decline in the number of red deer, which belongs to the large game. At the same time, the forest pasture was heavily dammed and disappeared completely in many places. Both of these resulted in less competitive pressure on the roe deer, and the deer 's food niche increased. The effect of red deer populations on the roe deer population can be shown particularly clearly for the regions in which the red deer density has increased again since then. In the Swiss National Park 400 red deer and 200 roe deer occurred around the 1940th In 1970, on the other hand, the red deer population had quadrupled, while the deer population had decreased by 80 percent. An enlargement of the food niche also meant the intensification of agriculture. Cultivated land today offers significantly more food than the commercial forest.

Systematics and history of development

The deer belongs to the subfamily of deception deer (Capreolinae). The genus Capreolus is very much isolated in the area of ​​the subfamily and has no clear close connections to any other genus living today.

The starting group for the genus Capreolus is the genus Procapreolus , which lived in the Miocene around 20 to 25 million years ago. While the real deer only developed in the course of the Pliocene around 10 million years ago, the roe deer stopped at this relatively low level. The genus Capreolus is thus one of the oldest genus in the family and, in terms of developmental history, much older than, for example, the red deer. Fossil finds document a number of species of this genus that have now become extinct. In the Mosbacher Sands the oldest fossils of the deer species Capreolus priscus were found in 650,000-year-old ice age deposits , Capreolus süssenbornensis was found near Weimar, Capreolus fossilis in Northern Italy and Capreolus major on the island of Palmaria . A smaller form, which largely corresponds to the European deer, appeared on the British Isles during the first interglacial period around 550,000 years ago. In what is now Spain, Portugal and southern France, however, deer have only been known for 200,000 years. During the Pleistocene the deer disappeared in large parts of Europe, a repopulation of the abandoned habitats started again with the expansion of the deciduous forests. In its current form, the deer has been found in Portugal and Spain for 21,000 to 17,000 years, in southern France for 14,000 to 12,600 years, and in the Netherlands for 12,000 to 11,000 years. Sweden was settled by the deer 8,000 years ago.

DNA analyzes show that the Siberian roe deer ( Capreolus pygargus ) is an independent species. Besides the European deer, it is the only recent species of the genus. It combines the Siberian and Chinese deer previously listed as a subspecies of deer. The Siberian deer is larger than the European species and has stronger antlers, smaller ears, and a paler coat color. Siberian and European deer separated as species an estimated 3 million years ago.

Deer and human

History of culture and research

Deer hunt, Pauwel de Vos (1595–1678), color on canvas, 212 × 347 cm
Wilhelm Trübner , Still Life with a Deer, Hare and Snipe (ca.1873)
Franz Marc , Red Deer II (1912)

Due to its panic escape behavior, the deer is not suitable for hunting with dogs and did not belong to the "high hunt" of the nobility. It is therefore not counted among the big game . Because of its life in small leaps, the deer is not suitable for the keepers in deer parks , which were the place of stately hunting practice, especially during the early modern period. The deer is correspondingly rare in hunting representations. It was not until the second half of the 19th century that hunting became a leisure activity for an increasingly self-confident bourgeoisie and thus even offered the economic background of hunting painting and literature. Here, too, the more imposing “roaring deer” dominated. The British natural scientist John Guille Millais dedicated 91 pages of his book British Deer and their Horns to the red deer and 54 to the roe deer in 1897 . The Prussian forester Ferdinand von Raesfeld , who was influential in the German-speaking world, first published his work on the red deer in 1898 and his book Das Rehwild in the same format in 1905 . In both works, Raesfeld formulated approaches to hunting and herding game, the core of which is still valid today. They are considered classics of German-language hunting literature and are still being published in revised form.

Today the deer is considered a very well researched animal species. Since deer cannot be individually differentiated, one began to mark deer with ear tags early in the 20th century in order to develop an understanding of their way of life and their spatial behavior. In Germany alone between 1903 and 1910 over 95,000 ear tags were issued for deer and the fate of the deer identified as fawns was elaborately documented in 33 main books. However, only data on life expectancy, migration distances and age-related development of teeth and antlers could be obtained from this data. It is hoped that the use of radio telemetry will provide further insights into the way of life and population dynamics of the deer, with the ecosystem of which the deer is an integral part of the focus of research.

The roebuck plays an important role in the founding legend of the medieval pilgrimage church of the Visitation of the Virgin Mary (Rechberg) .

In the 1923 short story Bambi. A life story from the forest of the Austrian Felix Salten is a deer as the protagonist. It was translated into English as early as 1928 and filmed by Walt Disney in 1942 . In contrast to the original, the protagonists of the film Bambi are not deer, but white-tailed deer that are more familiar to the American audience .

For many people in Germany, the deer mistakenly became the woman of the stag , probably through the influence of this film .


Roebuck with last bite
Roe buck trophies of a hunter

Deer are hunted in all European countries. Germany has by far the highest hunting range with more than a million animals killed. In Germany, the hunting distance in 2006/2007 corresponds to more than 11,310 tons of game . The number of deer killed has increased significantly over the past few decades. In the 1970s, the number of animals shot in Germany was between 600,000 and 700,000.

Hunting route in European countries
country Hunting route
Year or
hunting season
Germany 1,105,983 2011/2012
France 461,689 2002/2003
Sweden 382,000 1997
Austria 280.474 2005/2006
Poland 166.200 1997
Czech Republic 105.233 1994
Denmark 105,000 1997
Norway 59,000 1997
Switzerland 38,753 2005/2006
Hungary 38,000 1997
Great Britain 37,500 1997
Slovenia 31,100 1997
country Hunting route
Year or
hunting season
Italy 21,000 1997
Slovakia 17,214 1997
Belgium 16,100 1997
Netherlands 11,200 1997
Lithuania 7,600 1997
Estonia 6,400 1997
Luxembourg 6,000 1997
Croatia 5,900 1997
Bulgaria 4,600 1997
Albania 3,000 1997
Spain 400 1997

In older specialist literature, a population density of 10 deer per 100 ha is considered to be tolerable. Research results have given rise to this: Since deer are difficult to count in forest areas due to their secrecy, concrete numbers are usually not given today. The experience on the Danish Kalø peninsula is an almost classic example of the underestimation of a number of deer counted on sight : the entire deer population was shot there in 1953 for research reasons. The actual hunting distance was three times higher than what several experts had previously expected. Instead, the browsing activity of the roe deer is observed on so-called wise areas and conclusions can be drawn about the relative population density. On the one hand, the forest should be able to rejuvenate naturally by controlling the deer population, on the other hand the deer population should also be secured in the long term. As a rule, the population growth should be skimmed off after a forest-compatible stand has been reached. If forest regeneration cannot develop sufficiently due to browsing, the population should be reduced. The shooting plan ( hunting plan ) for roe deer developed on the basis of these findings is determined and monitored in different ways in the federal states of the Federal Republic of Germany after consultation between the hunters, landowners, experts and the lower hunting authorities. Today, planning is usually carried out over a period of three years. Hunting seasons vary in Europe depending on the country. In Germany, according to the Federal Hunting Act, the shooting times for roebucks are generally from May 1 to October 15, for fawns from September 1 to February 28, for deer from May 1 to January 31 and for doe from September 1 to 31 January set. In Austria the shooting is to be carried out in such a way that a gender ratio of 1: 1 can be brought about or maintained. Bucks with noticeably good body and antler development are generally to be spared. Two thirds of all doe kills should be made up of fawns and at least a third of doe and deer. Here, too, weakly developed doe are preferred to be shot. Similar guidelines apply in most European countries. In Austria the hunting season varies depending on the federal state. For bucks it is as long as in Germany. Ricken are sometimes shot as early as August and their hunting season ends on December 31 at the latest. In Switzerland the hunting season is mostly limited to two months in late summer and autumn.

Roe deer are mainly hunted individually. Hunting methods are the here stand hunting , the Decoy ( Blatten ) and stalking. Roe deer are also hunted on driven hunts ; However, no driven hunts are targeted at roe deer, as the panic escape behavior of the animals does not allow such a hunt.

Rifle cartridges used to hunt deer in Germany must have an impact energy (E 100) of at least 1000 joules at a distance of 100 meters (Section 19 (1) No. 2a BJagdG).

Terms in the hunter's language


Since the deer is one of the most frequently hunted animal species in German-speaking countries, extensive hunting terminology has developed, some of which has found its way into general usage through fiction . In general, the male, full-grown (adult) deer is referred to as a roebuck or just a buck . In the technical jargon of the hunt , the antlers sitting on the rose bushes are usually wrongly called horns (also weight ), in the southern German-Austrian language area Krickl or Gwichtel . The antlers consist of the two rods with the ends attached to them. During the seasons in which bucks wear antlers, they are also referred to as six-buck (three antlers per pole), prong-buck (two ends), gibbet or spit (rods without ends) according to the number of ends.

The adult female deer is usually called doe , in southern Germany and Austria goat . Young animals are referred to as fawns in their first year of life, a distinction being made between buck and rickety fawns . In the second year of life, female roe deer are called narrow-headed deer , while male deer are called yearlings or yearlings . The head (head) with the lights (eyes), the tear pits and the eavesdroppers (ears) sits on the support (neck). The white spot on the back of the deer is the mirror around the barely visible frond (tail). The cover (fur) is red to yellow-red in summer hair; in winter ( change of hair ) the piece turns to brown-gray. When young, fawns have white, small, round spots on a reddish background.

Raising young animals by humans

Roebuck in an outdoor enclosure, Berlin-Treptow (1957)

Fawns raised by humans because they were injured during a mowing or because they were supposedly abandoned by the mother can develop very problematically. Hand-raised billy fawns that never played with conspecifics develop the same behavioral characteristics as naturally growing up fawns. However, they are shaped on humans and also accept them as combat partners. On the other hand, they are not prepared for encounters with wild roebuck ready to fight. Even if these malformed bucks are released back into the wild, attacks on humans can occur. These encounters can lead to serious and occasionally fatal accidents for humans. In ignorance of the behavioral repertoire, people generally do not react to the roebuck's display behavior with withdrawal and humility. As a rule, they are also not aware that a threatening and imposing roebuck can strike very quickly and cause serious injuries to people.


Deer meat (" venison ") can be used in many ways. The larger internal organs such as the heart, liver, kidneys ( Kleines Jägerrecht ), and less often the lungs, are prepared and eaten.

The horns of the roe deer are often used as wall decorations or made into components of rustic interior decoration.
The barrels with the shells for knife handles are rarely used.

The fur, the blanket , of the roe deer is only rarely used. Occasionally it is tanned into fine leather and used, for example, for outer clothing as an inner lining. Before the introduction of plastics, it was the result of chamois leather.


  • Reidar Andersen, Patrick Duncan, John DC Linnell (Eds.): The European Roe Deer: The Biology of Success. Scandinavian University Press, Oslo 1998, ISBN 82-00-37682-6 .
  • Wilfried Bützler: Rotwild - biology, behavior, environment, Hege , blv, Munich 2001, ISBN 3-405-16174-6 .
  • Fred Kurt: The deer in the cultural landscape. Ecology, social behavior, hunting and tending . Kosmos, Stuttgart 2002, ISBN 3-440-09397-2 .
  • Ferdinand von Raesfeld , AH Neuhaus, K. Schaich: The roe deer. 9th, revised edition. Franckh-Kosmos, Stuttgart 2003, ISBN 3-440-09501-0 .
  • Christoph Stubbe: Roe deer: biology, ecology, care and hunting. 5th, revised edition. Franckh-Kosmos, Stuttgart 2008, ISBN 978-3-440-11211-3 .
  • Federal Hunting Act

Web links

Commons : deer  album with pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Reh  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wikiquote: Deer  Quotes

Individual evidence

  1. Stubbe, p. 33.
  2. a b Raesfeld et al., P. 18
  3. Andersen et al., Pp. 286-287.
  4. Wilfried Bützler: Rotwild - Biology, Behavior, Environment, Hege , blv Verlag, Munich 2001, ISBN 3-405-16174-6 , p. 34.
  5. Stubbe, p. 32.
  6. Raesfeld et al., P. 20
  7. Raesfeld et al., P. 22
  8. Stubbe, p. 41.
  9. Stubbe, p. 40.
  10. Osgyan, p. 226
  11. Raesfeld et al., P. 206
  12. Stubbe, p. 43.
  13. Raesfeld et al., P. 33.
  14. Stubbe, p. 48.
  15. Stubbe, p. 49.
  16. Stubbe, pp. 50-51.
  17. Stubbe, pp. 84-85.
  18. Stubbe, p. 86.
  19. Stubbe, p. 112.
  20. Stubbe, p. 97.
  21. Raesfeld et al., P. 73.
  22. Stubbe, p. 87.
  23. Stubbe, pp. 98-99.
  24. Stubbe, pp. 92-93.
  25. ^ Leonard Lee Rue III: The Encyclopedia of Deer . Voyageur Press, Stillwater 2003, ISBN 0-89658-590-5 , p. 83
  26. a b c Kurt, p. 57.
  27. Stubbe, p. 95.
  28. Raesfeld et al., P. 297.
  29. Raesfeld et al., P. 298.
  30. Kurt, p. 37.
  31. Stubbe, p. 144.
  32. Raesfeld et al., P. 178.
  33. Stubbe, p. 143.
  34. Andersen et al., P. 193
  35. Andersen et al., P. 195
  36. Raesfeld et al., P. 184.
  37. Stubbe, p. 145
  38. a b c Raesfeld et al., P. 185.
  39. a b Raesfeld et al., P. 186.
  40. Stubbe, p. 17
  41. Stubbe, p. 19
  42. Stubbe, p. 28
  43. Kurt, p. 188.
  44. Andersen et al., P. 146.
  45. Raesfeld et al., P. 148.
  46. Stubbe, p. 29
  47. Andersen et al., P. 132.
  48. Andersen et al., Pp. 13-14.
  49. Andersen et al., P. 14.
  50. Stubbe, p. 31
  51. Stubbe, p. 162.
  52. Stubbe, p. 163.
  53. a b Raesfeld et al., P. 152.
  54. Stubbe, p. 195
  55. a b Kurt, p. 190.
  56. Kurt, pp. 190-191.
  57. Stubbe, p. 148.
  58. Stubbe, p. 147.
  59. Kurt, p. 40.
  60. a b Raesfeld et al., P. 149.
  61. Waidwissen: Roe deer. Retrieved July 27, 2020 .
  62. Kurt, p. 43.
  63. Andersen et al., P. 227
  64. Kurt, p. 119.
  65. a b Kurt, p. 108.
  66. a b Kurt, p. 120.
  67. ^ Kurt, p. 126.
  68. Andersen et al., P. 192 and p. 232.
  69. Osgyan, p. 180.
  70. ^ Kurt, p. 131.
  71. Kurt, p. 128.
  72. Osgyan, p. 182
  73. Osgyan, p. 183
  74. a b Raesfeld et al., P. 165.
  75. Stubbe, p. 157
  76. Stubbe, pp. 158-159.
  77. Stubbe, p. 159.
  78. Kurt, p. 153.
  79. Kurt, p. 154.
  80. Raesfeld et al., P. 171
  81. ^ Kurt, p. 157.
  82. Kurt, p. 159.
  83. Kurt, p. 161.
  84. a b Osgyan, p. 163.
  85. Stubbe, p. 161.
  86. Stubbe, p. 162
  87. Osgyan, p. 164.
  88. a b Kurt, p. 47.
  89. Andersen et al., P. 96.
  90. a b Kurt, p. 49.
  91. Andersen et al., P. 92.
  92. Stubbe, p. 120
  93. Stubbe, p. 125
  94. Kurt, p. 55.
  95. a b c Kurt, p. 56.
  96. Kurt, p. 98.
  97. Andersen et al., P. 99.
  98. Kurt, p. 101.
  99. Stubbe, p. 138
  100. Kurt, p. 53.
  101. Kurt, p. 54.
  102. Kurt, pp. 54-55.
  103. Raesfeld et al., P. 295
  104. Kurt, p. 201.
  105. Raesfeld et al., P. 299.
  106. Raesfeld et al., P. 171.
  107. Kurt, p. 63.
  108. Kurt, p. 64.
  109. Raesfeld et al., P. 173.
  110. Kurt, p. 65.
  111. Kurt, p. 111.
  112. Kurt, p. 109.
  113. Raesfeld et al., P. 194
  114. a b c Raesfeld et al., P. 195.
  115. Raesfeld et al., P. 199
  116. Stubbe, p. 168.
  117. a b Kurt, p. 142.
  118. Stubbe, pp. 168-169
  119. Andersen et al., P. 259.
  120. Raesfeld et al., P. 199
  121. Kurt, p. 61.
  122. Andersen et al., P. 15.
  123. a b c d Kurt, p. 70.
  124. Kurt, pp. 69-70.
  125. Stubbe, p. 173
  126. Kurt, p. 77.
  127. Andersen et al., P. 264.
  128. Kurt, p. 76.
  129. Andersen et al., Pp. 264-265.
  130. a b c Kurt, p. 78.
  131. ^ Kurt, p. 87.
  132. Kurt, p. 140.
  133. a b c Kurt, p. 72.
  134. Kurt, pp. 68, 80.
  135. Kurt, p. 85.
  136. Kurt, pp. 92-94.
  137. Kurt, p. 106.
  138. Osgyan, p. 166.
  139. Osgyan, p. 167.
  140. a b Stubbe, p. 182.
  141. Stubbe, p. 193.
  142. Stubbe, p. 194
  143. a b c Andersen et al., P. 141
  144. Kurt, p. 83
  145. a b Andersen et al., P. 143
  146. Roland Kalb: Bear, lynx, wolf. Persecuted, exterminated, returned , Leopold Stocker Verlag, Graz 2007, ISBN 978-3-7020-1146-8 , p. 37 to p. 39
  147. Jürgen Heup: Bear, lynx, wolf. The silent return of the wild animals , Franckh-Kosmos, Stuttgart 2007, ISBN 978-3-440-11003-4 , p. 33
  148. Anderson et al., P. 149
  149. Stubbe, p. 232
  150. Anderson et al., P. 146
  151. Andersen, p. 147
  152. Stubbe, p. 229
  153. Stubbe, p. 233
  154. Stubbe, p. 2345
  155. Stubbe, p. 191
  156. Stubbe, pp. 228-229
  157. Kurt, pp. 83-84
  158. Kurt, p. 184
  159. Kurt, p. 84
  160. Stubbe, p. 185
  161. a b Kurt, p. 132
  162. Stubbe, p. 199
  163. Stubbe, p. 201
  164. Stubbe, p. 202
  165. Stubbe, p. 205
  166. Stubbe, p. 210
  167. Stubbe, p. 212
  168. Stubbe, p. 225
  169. Raesfeld et al., P. 231.
  170. Kurt, pp. 87-88.
  171. Andersen et al., P. 316
  172. a b c d Kurt, p. 202.
  173. Stubbe, p. 21
  174. Kurt, p. 203.
  175. Stubbe, p. 22
  176. Andersen et al., P. 12.
  177. Kurt, p. 216.
  178. Stubbe, p. 15
  179. a b c d e f Stubbe, p. 16.
  180. John Fletcher: Gardens of Earthly Delight - The History of Deer Parks . Windgather Press, Oxford 2011, ISBN 978-1-905119-36-3 , p. 62.
  181. Donald Chapman and Norma Chapman: Fallow Deer . Coch-y-bonddu Books, Machynlleth 1997, ISBN 0-9528510-5-9 , p. 62.
  182. Kurt, p. 23.
  183. Andersen, pp. 334-361.
  184. Stubbe, p. 237
  185. Hunting route
  186. Andersen et al., P. 339.
  187. Stubbe, p. 274.
  188. Stubbe, p. 245.
  189. Stubbe, p. 261.
  190. Raesfeld et al., P. 182
  191. § 19 Objective prohibitions: (1) It is prohibited 1. to shoot hoofed game and seals with shot, sentries, chopped lead, bolts or arrows, also as a catch shot; 2. a) to shoot roe deer and seals with rifle cartridges whose impact energy at 100 m (E 100) is less than 1,000 joules
  192. Raesfeld et al., P. 239
  193. Ilse Haseder, Gerhard Stinglwagner: "Knaurs Großes Jagdlexikon", Augsburg 2000, keyword: Roe deer / appearance p. 633
  194. Kurt, p. 94.