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Roe Deer (Capreolus capreolus)

Diputación de Málaga
Corzo morisco baja ARL

Roe Deer (Capreolus capreolus)

Reproduction Zeal Topping Hibernation
Animal Life > Mammals


It is an ungulate (animal with hooves) of large size (head-body length ♀︎110 to ♂︎140 cm; height of the midsection ♀︎65 to ♂︎75 cm) with uniform greyish or reddish brown coat all year round. The main difference between both sexes is based on the horns: females lack it. The offspring have a white spot mottled coat, helping it to hide. Males have small branched horns (18-19 cm long), with three deciduous tips falling in winter. It is a slender and graceful animal, with the hindquarters slightly raised, walking in little jumps. Females are slightly smaller than males. It has large ears and a short tail which is whitish in winter and more yellow in summer. It has a black spot (or muzzle) around the snout and a whitish chin. In Malaga there is a subspecies known as the "moorish deer", smaller than in the rest of Spain, and lacking the typical white bib that the other roe deer exhibit in the throat.

Where does it live?

It is a forest species with preferences for deciduous or mixed woods. It is also found in pine forests and riverside woods. It especially uses forest edges with pasture areas or forest crops (chestnut trees, cereal plantings in mountain areas). It finds food on edges, never too far from the forest. It prefers fragmented habitats, with forest patches. It requires a certain degree of humidity and the presence of water in its environment. It uses river valleys as dispersion corridors to colonize new areas. Areas with great forest diversity of woody plants and high humidity are considered optimal habitats (pine forests or mixes of holm-oaks, cork-oaks and gall-oaks).

How does it live?

Roe deer are grazers: they feed on leaves and tender shoots of woody plants, nibbling trees, bushes, brambles and also grasses. They have a small stomach, and because of that they eat at small intervals, with brief stops to rest. They are either solitary, either living in small family groups of 2 to 3 individuals (the female with their offspring and perhaps a male). If the habitat is very favourable they can become gregarious, as in northern Spain. Their territories range from 0.25 to 1.2 km2 in optimal habitats (fir tree forests); up to 4 km2 in suboptimal (pine forests).

How does it reproduce?

It is a monogamous species. Rutting is named "barks", due to the sound emitted by males (similar to that of a dog barking deep in the forest) to mark its territory. The courtship consists of races in which the males chase the females, so it is easier to observe them at this moment. There is only one birth a year of one or two offspring (usually one). The females have the capacity to save the fertilized ovum after dormant zeal and activate its development when the habitat is optimal (delayed implantation).

Where can we see it in Málaga?

It is a scarce type in Málaga. It is more common on the extreme western part, near  the border with Cádiz. We can observe it on the Cortes mountains, on the Duque mountain, the Genal river valley, Guadiaro, Guadares, Verde, Guadalmansa, Padrón, Guadalmina, Guadaiza and Ojén. It has recently been introduced in Sierra Tejeda. In the Great Path, we can find it for example on stages 23, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29 and 32.

Curious facts

A horn is not the same as an antler. Horns (such as those belonging to the deer, red deer and fallow deer) are solid and deciduous structures that animals change every year. Antlers (as in goats and sheep) do not fall, they are permanent. They form a sheath covering a bone attached to the skull. The type known as "the forest elf" is an animal with horns, extremely silent, difficult to observe and which usually goes unnoticed. Only during the mating period, because of the barking and races after the females, these goblins lose their discreet role and let themselves be seen. It likes solitude and peace. In places where there are many deer or goats, the roe deer is limited by competition and discomfort.

Similar species

It can be mistaken with the female ibex, from which it can be differentiated by its smaller size and because it has horns. It can also be confused with deer and fallow deer young specimens and females, from which it differs because it is smaller and has different type of antlers.

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