Fallow Pricket

Neil Bygrave (NATURELENS)

Exeter, United Kingdom

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Artist's Description

Fallow Deer – Dama dama. Devon, UK

The Fallow is intermediate in size between the roe and red deer. There are four main variations in coat but many minor variations also exist including a long-haired version found in Mortimer forest, Shropshire. The common variety is the familiar tan/fawn colour with white spotting (becoming long and grey with indistinct spots in winter) on the flanks and white rump patch outlined with characteristic black horse-shoe. The Menil variety is paler, lacks the black bordered rump and keeps its white spots all year. The black variety is almost entirely black with no white coloration anywhere. Finally, the white variety can be white to sandy coloured and becomes more white at adulthood. This is a true colour variety and not albinism, which is rare. The fallow is the only British deer with palmate antlers adults (>3 years), which increase in size with age, up to 70cm long. They can live for up to 16 years, but bucks (males) rarely exceed 8 to 10 years.

They are non-native but considered naturalised and are locally abundant and increasing being found throughout England and Wales, though patchy in Scotland. Their favourite habitats being mature broadleaf woodland with under-storey, open coniferous woodland andopen agricultural land.

The extant species of fallow deer found in Britain was introduced by the Normans in the 10th century although some would suggest that the Romans attempted to introduce it here much earlier. Fallow deer were prized as ornamental species and were protected in Royal Hunting “Forests” for royal sport. During Mediaeval times many deer parks that held fallow deer were established and these and more recent park escapees have given rise to the free-living populations in Britain today.

During the rut behaviour is dependent upon the environment and population density. In most populations bucks maintain a traditional, defended rutting stand. In others a temporary rutting stand is maintained to attract sufficient does to herd them into a harem. In areas with very high buck densities a lek may be formed. In lower density areas bucks may simply seek out receptive females. During conflict, the escalation of display behaviour in bucks, from groaning and parallel walks to fighting, is in common with other larger species of deer.

Peak times of activity are at dawn and dusk. Most hours of the day time are spent “lying up”, which is where the deer lies down to ruminate between feeding bouts.

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