Photo Credit: Marisa Lee
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Dama dama
STATUS: Exotic. Breeder. Native to Europe. Has been introduced widely around the world, including the area around Camden, Alabama. Still a very small population near Miller's Ferry.
DESCRIPTION: Fallow deer (Dama dama) are members of the Family Cervidae and are native to the Mediterranean Region of Europe, Asia Minor,
DISTRIBUTION: There is uncertainty over the natural distribution of this species in recent times. It is believed D. d. dama occurred in Europe and D. d. mesopotamica occurred in the remainder of the deer’s range, which included Asia Minor,
HABITAT: Fallow deer can be found in a variety of habitats, but they have a preference for deciduous and mixed forests, interspersed with open, grassy areas. They require some tree cover for shelter and winter food.
FEEDING HABITS: The fallow deer is predominately a grazer, but also commonly browses trees and shrubs. The largest portion of the fallow deer’s diet consists of grass and browse. They also feed on fruits, nuts, and fungi when available. Most water requirements are acquired from the deer’s diet and dew, but they occasionally drink from free water sources.
LIFE HISTORY AND ECOLOGY: In some areas, fallow deer do not appear to be gregarious, while in other regions groups of 30 or more animals can be seen together. Adult bucks are usually solitary, but may form bachelor groups of six or less individuals in the summer. Doe/fawn groups are common throughout the year. Fallow deer are polygamous, with adult bucks breeding as many does as they can attract during the breeding season, or rut. The rut begins in September, peaks in October, and continues into November. During the rut, older, more dominant bucks establish small territories about 100 meters apart. They develop scrapes and thrash trees and shrubs with their antlers within this territory. Bucks also perform a dance-like ritual and bellow in a deep, guttural voice to attract does. There are frequent fights and shoving matches among bucks during the rut. Fallow deer may utilize a system known as lekking in areas with dense populations. In these situations, numerous bucks gather at a favorable site called a lek. Each buck attempts to defend a zone about 5 to 10 meters across and mates with any does attracted into his zone. Weaker bucks only may be able to hold their position in the lek for a few hours at a time, while stronger bucks may last several days in a row. Outside of the rut, bucks use very few if any vocalizations. Does are quite vocal throughout the year, using various mews and bleats to communicate with their fawns and other members of their social group. Does generally give birth to one fawn in late May or June. Most does are not breed until they are two years old. Bucks reach sexual maturity at about 1-½ years old, but generally do not successfully breed until they are four years old. The average lifespan for fallow deer is 11-15 years, with some captive animals living 20 years or more.
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AUTHOR: Chris Cook, Wildlife Biologist, Division of Wildlife & Freshwater Fisheries