GWCT National Gamebag Census & Tracking Mammals Partnership

Roe deer Capreolus capreolus

Taxonomy: Class: Mammalia; Order: Artiodactyla; Family: Cervidae

Description

Roe deer photo
Roe deer © Alexis de la Serre

The roe deer is the smallest native British deer. Its coat varies from dark grey-brown in winter to reddish in summer, but always shows a cream rump patch and insignificant tail. The antlers of the male are small. It was close to extinction some 300 years ago and still localised a century ago. Helped by re-introductions, it has steadily expanded its range since the 1960s. It is considered a pest in some areas because of damage to agriculture and forestry. Bucks may be shot from 1 April to 31 October, does from 1 November to 31 March.

Further information:
Mammal Society website roe deer page.

Conservation status and legislation

Status:
UK: Native
World: Least Concern (IUCN Red List)

Legislation:
 
Logo NBN Gateway © Crown Copyright. All rights reserved NERC 100017897 2004
Source: National Biodiversity Network and its data providers, who bear
no responsibility for interpretation of the 10x10-km grid map
 

Distribution and abundance

The roe deer is the most widely distributed deer species in the UK. It is found across mainland Scotland, northern England, most of East Anglia, most of southern England and is starting to colonise Wales. It is absent from the Isle of Wight and most Scottish islands except Arran, Bute, Islay, Seil and Skye. It is also missing from Ireland.

Estimates of roe deer abundance (numbers of individuals in the spring) across the UK, from Harris et al. (1995):

United Kingdom 500,000
England 150,000
Scotland 350,000
Wales 50
N Ireland 0

Recent trends from the National Gamebag Census

United Kingdom

Index of bag density from 1961 to 2009 (see statistical methods and interpretational considerations).
Error bars represent 95% confidence intervals.

Roe deer trend United Kingdom

There has been a significant and sustained increase in the bag index between 1961 and 2009. This corresponds to a spectacular period of range expansion and increasing abundance (see maps) following near extinction and subsequent re-introductions. The increase in bag index may also reflect greater effort from stalking.

Change in roe deer bags over time, with 95% confidence limits (see statistical methods):

Country Sites Start
year
End
year
Change (%)
1961-2009
Change (%)
1984-2009
Change (%)
1995-2009
United Kingdom 570 1961 2009 660*
320 to 1297
104*
70 to 142
49*
32 to 69

* significant at P < 0.05

England

Index of bag density from 1970 to 2009 (see statistical methods and interpretational considerations).
Error bars represent 95% confidence intervals.

Roe deer trend England

There has been a significant and sustained increase in the bag index between 1970 and 2009. This corresponds to a spectacular period of range expansion and increasing abundance (see maps) following near extinction and subsequent re-introductions. The increase in bag index may also reflect greater effort from stalking.

Change in roe deer bags over time, with 95% confidence limits (see statistical methods):

Country Sites Start
year
End
year
Change (%)
1961-2009
Change (%)
1984-2009
Change (%)
1995-2009
England 297 1970 2009 339*
236 to 649
127*
74 to 196
54*
29 to 90

* significant at P < 0.05

Scotland

Index of bag density from 1961 to 2009 (see statistical methods and interpretational considerations).
Error bars represent 95% confidence intervals.

Roe deer trend Scotland

There has been a significant and sustained increase in the bag index between 1961 and 2009. This corresponds to a spectacular period of range expansion and increasing abundance (see maps) following near extinction and subsequent re-introductions. The increase in bag index may also reflect greater effort from stalking.

Change in roe deer bags over time, with 95% confidence limits (see statistical methods):

Country Sites Start
year
End
year
Change (%)
1961-2009
Change (%)
1984-2009
Change (%)
1995-2009
Scotland 268 1961 2009 596*
220 to 1109
94*
53 to 140
47*
22 to 79

* significant at P < 0.05

Wales

There are too few bag records of roe deer to produce an index graph. Roe deer trend Wales

Two sites in Wales, both close to the border with England, have reported roe deer bags in recent years. This refects the continuing westwards spread of the species (see maps).

There are too few bag records of roe deer to evaluate rates of change over time

Country Sites Start
year
End
year
Change (%)
1961-2009
Change (%)
1984-2009
Change (%)
1995-2009
Wales Too few sites

N Ireland

There are too few bag records of roe deer to produce an index graph. Roe deer trend N Ireland

 

There are too few bag records of roe deer to evaluate rates of change over time

Country Sites Start
year
End
year
Change (%)
1961-2009
Change (%)
1984-2009
Change (%)
1995-2009
N Ireland Too few sites

Environmental zones

Change in roe deer bags over time, with 95% confidence limits (see statistical methods):

Environmental zone Sites Start
year
End
year
Change (%)
1961-2009
Change (%)
1984-2009
Change (%)
1995-2009
Easterly lowlands (England/Wales) 192 1977 2009 330*
159 to 703
111*
51 to 203
49*
25 to 86
Westerly lowlands (England/Wales) 64 1977 2009 205*
77 to 637
111*
55 to 208
31
-8 to 98
Uplands (England/Wales) 37 1984 2009 no data 194*
44 to 998
170*
79 to 243
Lowlands (Scotland) 72 1977 2009 123*
65 to 258
109*
63 to 194
59*
12 to 120
Intermediate uplands/islands (Scotland) 39 1977 2009 396
-4074 to 4228
22
-17 to 64
15
-16 to 57
True uplands (Scotland) 155 1961 2009 430*
122 to 753
102*
34 to 176
38*
5 to 83

* significant at P < 0.05

Comparison with BBS mammal data

Since 1995, data on roe deer abundance have been collected under the Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) organised by the British Trust for Ornithology. Below, the UK trend from the NGC is compared to the one from the BBS (from 1995 onwards).

NGC index of bag density (blue) and BBS index of abundance (red), from 1995 to 2009.
Error bars represent 95% confidence intervals.

Roe deer: comparison of UK trends from GWCT and BTO

Both sets of indices show significant increases since 1995. For all years, the BTO confidence intervals are completely or almost completely within the NGC confidence intervals, indicating good agreement between the two index series.

Long-term trend from the National Gamebag Census

Index of bag density from 1901 to 2009 (see statistical methods and interpretational considerations).
Error bars represent 95% confidence intervals.

Roe deer long-term trend UK

The bag index remained fairly stable between 1901 and 1960, but there has been a significant and sustained increase from the 1960s to the present day. The period of increase reflects the ongoing range expansion and increasing abundance of the species (see maps) following near extinction and subsequent re-introductions. Why the increase began when it did was probably linked to a combination of habitat expansion (through new forestry plantings) and changes in the law (control by snaring and shotgun drives was outlawed). This led to an greater use of stalking, first for control, then as a source of income.

References and further reading

  • Battersby,J. (2005). UK Mammals: Species Status and Population Trends. Joint Nature Conservation Committee/Tracking Mammals Partnership, Peterborough (JNCC download page).
  • Deer Initiative (2008). Species Ecology: Roe Deer. England & Wales Best Practice Guides, The Deer Initiative, Chirk (PDF file - 4,830 KB).
  • Fawcett,J.K. (1997). Roe Deer. Mammal Society & British Deer Society, London & Fordingbridge.
  • Harris,S., Morris,P., Wray,S. & Yalden,D.W. (1995). A Review of British Mammals: Population Estimates and Conservation Status of British Mammals Other than Cetaceans. Joint Nature Conservation Committee, Peterborough (JNCC download page).
  • Harris,S. & Yalden,D.W. (2008). Mammals of the British Isles: Handbook, 4th edition. Mammal Society, Southampton.

This report should be cited as: Aebischer,N.J., Davey,P.D. & Kingdon,N.G. (2011). National Gamebag Census: Mammal Trends to 2009. Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust, Fordingbridge (http://www.gwct.org.uk/ngcmammals).

Return to species list

Cookie Policy

Our website uses cookies to provide you with a better online experience. If you continue to use our site without changing your browser settings, we'll assume you are happy to receive cookies. Please read our cookie policy for more information.

Do not show this message again