Wild deer at Belton
Belton park has been home to a wild herd of fallow deer for over 300 years. The deer can be easily seen on walks across the parkland, with plenty of opportunity for some great photos. Unusually the herd includes four distinctly different colours of deer.
The male fallow deer are called bucks, unlike red deer which are called stags. Once the bucks reach six years of age they are known as master bucks. The females are called does and the young are called fawns. When a male fawn reaches the age of one, it’s known as a button buck because of the two velvet ‘buttons’ that appear on either side of its head from which antlers will develop.
Coats of many colours
We are fortunate that the Belton herd includes four distinctly different colours of fallow deer.
Common fallow are fawn in colour with white spotting on their flanks which becomes indistinct in winter, and a white rump with a characteristic black horseshoe outline. Menil colouring is paler, lacks the black-bordered rump and keeps its white spots all year. Melanistic deer are almost entirely black with no white colouration anywhere. White deer were re-introduced to the park in 2017. They can range from white to sandy in colour, becoming whiter in adulthood. This is a true colour and not albinism.
How fallow deer antlers grow
Antlers grow from pedicles which aren’t visible in young fallow bucks until after their first winter. A fallow deer buck’s first antlers are simple, unbranched spikes 1- 20 cm in length. The following year they generally have two spikes and are then known as prickets. Fallow deer shed or cast their antlers in late April or May. New antlers develop during the spring and summer, and once they are fully formed the ‘velvet’ covering is shed.
What the deer eat
The deer receive no supplemetary food, even in winter. They are self-sufficient and forage for their own food, a mixture of grasses, sedges and herbs. They also browse on tree branches and depending on the season will eat seeds and nuts from under the trees. Our Ranger Team keeps a close eye on the herd to ensure it remains healthy and in good condition.
A summary of some of the key stages in the annual cycle of life for deer is outlined below;
Spring antler development
Mature, well-conditioned bucks cast their antlers from the end of April until the first week of June. Prickets cast their antlers a little later. New antlers then develop. The size and numbers of spikes on the antlers indicate the age of a male deer.
Fawns are generally born in June and early July. The female does take themselves away from the herd. They seek out a secluded spot with rough grass or nettles for protection and give birth to a single fawn. After 20 minutes or so the fawn will be up and about and the doe will return to the herd with her fawn beside her.
The breeding season, known as the rut, runs from the last week in September until the middle of November. There are around 30 master bucks with the potential to breed. The bucks bellow and roar to attract the attention of the female does. Competition can be fierce at times amongst the more dominant males, which are commonly 10-12 years of age.
Food can be scarce for the deer during the autumn and winter months. Their diet of grasses, sedges and seeds, can also include trees and shrubs which is not at all popular with our gardeners!
Look but don’t touch!
Do please enjoy the spectacle of Belton’s wonderful wild and historic deer herd. If you spot a fawn on your visit please don’t approach it, and under no circumstances touch it as human scent can be transferred to the fawn and may cause the mother to abandon her baby.
Please keep your dog on a lead when close to the deer. If you are concerned about a fawn or any of the herd please let one of the Belton team know so they can contact the Rangers.