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DEER IN CUMBRIA

  • Historically, an upland herd of RED DEER have occupied the Martindale Estate between Ullswater and Haweswater for over 300 years. Managed by the landowners, the herd has grown and over-spilled into neighbouring Mardale and Kentmere, with an outlying group now established at Thirlmere and Armboth Fell.
  • Separate woodland herds are based in Grizedale Forest, the Rusland Valley (pictured here at mid-morning in mid-May), and on the limestone at the head of Morecambe Bay - this latter group often being observed from the hides at Leighton Moss. The woodland stags are better nourished (being partial to Yew, Juniper and Bramble) and generally several centimetres taller.
  • This is the largest land mammal in the UK - standing between 100 and 130 cm high at the shoulder. Coats turn from grey-brown to reddish brown in summer.
  • Each family group is led by the senior hind and loosely interacts with other groups. Except during the autumn rutting season stags are excluded to the edges of the area, becoming exposed and vulnerable.
  • Rutting occurs in September and October with the hinds giving birth about eight months later in mid-May to July.

  • At half the height of Red Deer, the ROE DEER is the second largest native species of deer but smaller than the Red at around 60-75 cm at the shoulder. It almost became extinct through hunting and poaching, but has made a remarkable comeback since the start of the twentieth century and is now present in all parts of the county except the high fells, sometimes at "pest" levels.
  • A remnant population from the Solway Mosses dispersed (perhaps displaced by tree felling for the requirements of World War I) and spread throughout the Eden Valley. These have been joined by descendents of European stock released near Windermere around 1900.
  • Unlike Red Deer, Roes are not social - young leave the family group the following spring to find a mate. The pair may then occupy the same territory for several years, with small groups, of half a dozen or so animals, only forming after the rutting season in July.
  • Roe kids are usually born in early May (see photo), a little earlier than Red Deer calves. They spend the first day or two alone, the mother only returning to feed them at intervals, but keeping a watchful eye from a distance.
  • Features are the bright foxy red coat of adults which gives way to grey-brown in winter (as here in November), big ears and white lined muzzle, but it is the disappearing and characteristic white rump that is often seen!
  • Intermediate in size between the Red and Roe Deer, the FALLOW DEER is an introduced species to Britain (probably the Romans first tried it, but certainly the Normans introduced them for hunting purposes).
  • Within Cumbria there are private parkland herds at Holker (Cartmel) and Dalemain (Penrith), but the only wild examples are found on the Cumbria-Lancashire border from a small herd in woodland near Silverdale and Arnside (probably originating as escapees from Dallam Park). Levens Park in the south of the county is home to a small herd of very handsome Norwegian black fallow deer (see photos right and below) and a walk through what was a medieval deer park often provides good viewing. They have very little if any white, but occasionally a pure white specimen is born.
  • The common variety in Britain has a tan/fawn colour with white spotting on the flanks and white rump patch outlined with characteristic black horse-shoe. Both the Holker and the Silverdale herds, however, are of the menil variety, which are paler and lack the black horseshoe marking. The coats remain spotted in winter but becoming long and grey and less distinct.
  • The fallow is the only British deer with palmate antlers, males acquiring them from the age of three and growing with age until about 70 cm long (points on the front are known as tines, those at the back pellers):-

  • The diminutive and secretive MUNTJAC is around 50 cm tall and seems to have established itself thinly in the south of the county, being recorded from both Roudsea and Brigsteer Woods.
  • They live singly or in pairs and like the rest of England's wild Muntjac deer they are probably descendents of escapees from Woburn Park and of Chinese origin.