Roe Deer in Scotland by Linda Mellor

Roe Deer in Scotland by Linda Mellor

To celebrate the start of the Roe deer buck season in Scotland, J Boult Designs is featuring knowledgeable writer and photographer, Linda Mellor and her thoughts on Roe deer in Scotland. 

 Photo Copyright Linda Mellor

Photo Copyright Linda Mellor

Roe Deer in Scotland by Linda Mellor

Perhaps Roe deer are a species of deer most closely associated to children’s fairy tales and the Disney film, Bambi. They certainly were for me. At the age of 4 or 5 my mother took me to the cinema to see Bambi and sealed my lifelong love of deer, in particular, Roe deer. As a photographer they have always fascinated me: captivated by their beauty and in awe of their agility to spring across fields, and leap fences with ease.

Timeline of Roe Deer in Britain

Roe (Capreolus capreolus) are the smallest of the British native deer species and are thought to have been resident in Britain since before the Mesolithic period (6,000 to 10,000 years ago). They became extinct in England by 1800s due to over hunting and forest clearances although reduced numbers remained in areas of Scotland. Over the centuries other deer species once resident in parts of Scotland moved on but the roe deer have remained.

Typical habitat of Roe Deer in Scotland

Adaptability has been the key to the survival of Roe deer, they can be found in most areas from remote open hill ground to green spaces, woodland and scrub areas in towns and cities and derelict industrial sites. Roe are smaller than red and fallow; they typically weight between 19 kgs for does (female) and 25kgs for bucks (male) although weight will vary depending on location, available food, shelter, and weather. Their smaller size makes them less noticeable than the likes of red deer, and they are certainly a more timid species. Roe deer are active over a 24 hour period, however, like most wildlife they are more likely to be seen at dawn and dusk, or out in the sunshine after a prolonged period of rain. Throughout the summer months they are usually solitary and during the winter and spring months they may form loose family groups. All these factors make them more inconspicuous however, if you look to open areas close to woodland on an early spring morning or at sunrise during the summer months there is a good chance of a glimpse of roe deer feeding. 

Roe deer
Photo Copyright Linda Mellor

Differences between Roe bucks and does

The buck is the larger of the sexes and is identified by the short antlers, the doe can be identified by a small tuft of rump hair that looks like a tail. Both have white/cream coloured patches on their rumps: the doe’s rump patch is upside down heart shape and the buck’s a kidney shape, and when alarmed, the deer will flare out their rumps. In summer, both sexes can be recognised by their sleek rich, chestnut red coloured coats and as the seasons change, and head towards the winter months,  they grow a thicker coat which is greyish fawn colour. During the late spring when they moult their coats look dishevelled and patchy. 

Roe deer Photo Copyright Linda Mellor

Photo Copyright Linda Mellor

Home territories of Roe deer

Roe deer tend to prefer their home territories, and local ranges, and as such, can display rather predictable behaviour. In good quality habitats, the areas in which roe live can be small, as little as 5 – 6 acres. Both does and bucks can be territorial. Mature bucks are typically more aggressive during early spring through to autumn, and will chase and fight other bucks on their territory. The rut takes place from mid-July to the end of August, and bucks can be seen chasing one another and fighting. The home range of a buck tends to be larger and more exclusive than the doe territories which often spill out into neighbouring areas. 

Roe deer in velvet Scotland

Photo Copyright Linda Mellor

Roe deer management

Like all deer, Roe deer numbers need to be managed. Culling is an essential practice in the management of a roe deer population. It is crucial, not only for the welfare of the deer, but also to lessen the impact of deer browsing on young trees, crops and in gardens and reduce the likelihood of deer-vehicle collisions on our roads: each year people are killed in deer-vehicle collisions. 

Roe deer harvesting

Roe deer population

Roe deer populations, if left unchecked, can damage tree growth, cereal crops and decimate gardens. Roe deer tend to favour sweet, succulent plants, and new leaf growth. If there is ample food source, and the Roe population is relatively undisturbed, then they will thrive, with does giving birth to twins or triplets once a year, and quickly increasing a small population to a large one capable of impactful damage. Professional deer management balances the deer numbers allowing the countryside, trees and crops to flourish without the pressure of over-grazing and deer-related damage, and healthy deer can be enjoyed by everyone.


Venison is good for you

 As a food source, venison has been eaten for centuries, but in the last decade it has become a popular choice on restaurant menus and is stocked in butchers, and supermarkets. It is one of the most nutritious of all red meats and a good source of iron and is high in Vitamins B6, B12, potassium, phosphorus, riboflavin, and niacin. It is also a source of zinc, lower in fat and saturated fat than domestic red meats, yet it is higher in polyunsaturated fats. The roe venison is milder in flavour and finer in texture than red deer venison, so if you are unsure if you would like venison or not, roe venison would be an ideal first meat to try. Roe deer antlers, naturally shed from October to December, older bucks drop their antlers first, are a popular craft item, made into sticks, jewellery, accessories for you and your home.

Roe deer antler kilt pin

Author’s interest in Roe deer species

Over the decades roe deer have been a frequent subject of my photography and I have also stalked them in different counties. Whether stalking with a rifle or taking photographs with a camera, it is important to understand the species and also take a moment to appreciate and enjoy them. Without deer management we would not have a thriving, healthy population and neither would we see beautiful examples running across the countryside like devils then stopping to look back to see who had disturbed them.

Do you want to go Roe deer stalking?

If you are interested in stalking roe deer visit Country Sport Scotland website, where you will find a selection of professional stalkers offering stalking opportunities throughout Scotland for Roe deer and other deer species.

Roe deer stalking Scotland

Roe deer season - Scotland

Roe Buck April 1 – Oct 20

Roe Doe Oct 21 – Mar 31

Deer stalking in the UK – Code of Practice by BASC

Linda Mellor
Photo Copyright Linda Mellor

About the Author:

Linda Mellor has been a countryside photographer and writer for decades. Based in the Highlands, she writes about Scotland’s countryside and wildlife, and photographs deer. An author of three books, editor of a quarterly magazine and a freelance writer and photographer, Linda takes her inspiration directly from the Scottish countryside. Linda also gives talks, and can be found hosting talks at the Scottish Game Fair in July at Scone Palace.

Linda Mellor Photography website


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