Fallow Deer (Cervidae dama dama)
Where do they come from?
Fallow deer come from the Mediterranean area of Europe and the Middle East (Iran and Iraq). They were taken to Europe and parts of North and South America, Southern Africa and Australia, New Zealand mainly as farm or park animals. The parents of these deer came from British Columbia in 1997. They were born on a meat-producing farm in Odessa. In the wild, these deer like to live in woodland areas with grassy clearings.
Why are they different colours?
Fallow deer come in a many different colours from reddish brown with white spots, to black, brown or white with few noticeable spots. In winter all deer coats become darker and thicker.
How big do they grow?
The weight of an average male fallow deer (buck) is between 75 to 80 kilograms, with large animals up to 110 kg. Body length is between 165 and 190 cm. Only males have antlers that can measure 20 inches (60 cm) up to 38 inches (95 cm).
How old do they get?
These deer usually live 15 years. The oldest recorded deer was 25 years old. The bucks you see at the Reserve today range in age from 7 years to 10 years or more. The actual age of the older bucks is not known as no records were kept prior to the creation of the Reserve.
What do they eat?
In the wild, the deer eat grass, herbs, leaves, nuts, fruit, berries, bark and fungi. Because they are not native to Canada, our deer get good quality hay and grains (corn, oats, barley) in the winter and of course, we have to make sure that their water doesn’t freeze in the winter. We provide them with salt and mineral licks year round.
Occasionally they are fed apples and carrots, but not too much. It is important that the keepers keep track of what they eat and when, so please don’t feed our deer unless a keeper is with you.
What do they do all day?
In the wild, fallow deer bucks live in herds most of the year. They like each other’s company. Although they graze all day, they eat most actively at dawn and dusk. In the middle of the day, they rest and chew their cuds. A deer’s stomach has four parts or chambers.
What about those antlers?
Fallow deer antlers are different that those of the white-tail or red deer because they are palmated or flattened like the palm of your hand or a shovel, similar to moose antlers. Male fawns show the first signs of antler growth nine months after birth and the first set of antlers are short spikes.
Bucks lose (cast) and grow new antlers each April or May. New growth (velvet) begins five days after antler loss and the velvet is torn away to reveal the hard antlers in mid to late August. Each year, depending upon nutrition, genetics and environmental stress, the size of the buck’s antlers should increase until he reaches his 11th year when he passes out of his prime and antler size begins to decrease.
Who’s in charge?
As in all deer herds, there is a hierarchical structure and Max is our leader in most situations. He will lead the others away from any danger and the other deer do not challenge him at moving or feeding times. Recently Moki has been trying to take the leader’s role, but we don’t think he has the skill set that Max has, and most of the deer continue to accept Max’s leadership.
Why is the fence so high?
Fallow deer can easily jump over a 6 or 7 foot fence, so that’s why our fence is 8 feet high. It prevents the deer from jumping out and also protects them from predators. The steel posts are 10 feet high with two feet below the ground surface. There is no space for unwanted animals to dig under or squeeze through the fence.