The truth is, we don’t know exactly how many deer there are here at Watchtree. A reasonable estimate based on regular observation would suggest between 25 and 30 individuals although that number is likely to fluctuate throughout the year.
Roe Deer are solitary animals in summer, but they will form loose herds of 4 to 8 individuals in the winter which use a specific territory. Territories are typically around 1km square and often overlap with neighbouring herds territories. Each herd generally includes a dominant buck, one or two adult doe’s and her kids from the previous summer. In spring those adult does will chase off last year’s kids before giving birth to the new year’s brood. At Watchtree we know there is a territory covering the meadows and woodland strip just to the North of our visitors’ centre.
Additionally, we often see smaller groups of bucks grazing together in winter. These are likely to be younger animals who have not yet established their own herds. They may well challenge the dominant bucks during the ‘rut’ which usually occurs in July and August.
Our resident Roe Deer have no natural predators and are protected from persecution from humans within the confines of the reserve. This means they will have very successful breeding results most years. This could mean that the resident population more than doubles each year, however 5 years ago we estimated 15 to 20 resident Roe Deer so the annual increase has not been that prolific. We suspect that the deer natural control their own numbers due to territorial pressure. It is likely that Watchtree is a haven for breeding deer which are then migrating outside of the reserve and populating other areas where their survival rate may be significantly reduced (due to habitat suitability, road fatalities, hunting etc.).