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Fallow Deer

Fallow Deer

This video follows UCD's Dr. Billy Clarke and Phoenix Park Ranger, Terry Moore, as they tag the newborn fawn in the Phoenix Park and explain more about the parks' deer herd.

Fallow deer have been present in the Phoenix Park since the 17th Century, when they were hunted for sport in what was then a Royal Deer Park. Fallow deer originated in the eastern Mediterranean region. Today there is a herd of approximately 500 deer, roaming freely throughout the park. However, you are almost guaranteed to see some in an area know as the Fifteen Acres, near the Papal Cross.

The bucks (males) and does (females) live in separate groups, except during the rut (mating season) which occurs in autumn. Bucks shed their antlers every April and will regrow their antlers between May and September, in preparation for the rut. Antler size depends on age and on the deer's health and nutrition.

Bucks will fight quite aggressively for dominance and will lock antlers and wrestle for access to the does. During the rut, bucks make a distinctive repetitive grunting noise, which sounds like a belch. One dominant male could father up to 80% of the fawns per season. There is usually a different dominant male each season.

Phoenix Park

Pregnancy lasts approximately eight months and the fawns are born around June and July. They are born in the long grass and spend their first two weeks of life hidden there, with their mother visits them throughout the day for feeding. If you find a fawn in the long grass, it is not abandoned and you should not touch or remove it. Fawns are weaned at 9 to 12 months of age.

Fallow deer are mostly grazers, with grass making up the bulk of their food. They also feed on leaves, fruit and herbs. A buck lives for about 8 to 10 years and a doe for 12-16 years. The oldest recorded male found in the Phoenix Park was 14 years old and died of old age in 2004.

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The fallow deer herds are monitored and tagged by University College Dublin's (UCD) Biology and Environmental Science Department. UCD have been tagging the fawns and studying the deer since 1987 and their studies have offered new insights into the mating rituals and behaviour of the fallow deer. The tagging of the fawns allows UCD to study an individual deer’s life from birth to death.

Park ranger and head deer keeper of the Phoenix Park, Terry Moore, advises visitors against approaching the deer too suddenly as they may flee into oncoming traffic. As there are over 10 million car journeys made through the Phoenix Park annually, both motorists and  wildlife need to be protected. Feeding the deer is also discouraged, especially during the rut when males can become dangerous.

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