Charlecote's deer through the year
Our fallow deer herd is one of the things our visitors love most about Charlecote.
From late September through to late November you can see the bucks clash antlers in the rut. With their heads down and their antlers locked in a powerful challenge, they can travel quickly in unpredictable directions. Please keep your distance and photograph them from the footpaths.
Our deer roam freely around the parkland, with the males and females often separating out into their own groups, until the autumn when they come together for the rut.
Take a walk in the wider parkland and you’ll almost certainly see them during your visit. If you’ve not found the deer, just ask any of the Park and Garden staff or volunteers you see around, and they will point you in the right direction.
Enjoy watching the deer from the mown paths and keep any children in your care close to you. They are wild animals, the bucks have large antlers, and they can be unpredictable when startled especially during rutting season.
Our ranger and her team do not handle the deer and visitors should never attempt to touch or feed the deer.
Part of the ancient landscape
Apart from a break during the foot and mouth epidemic some years ago, there have been fallow deer at Charlecote for centuries.
We keep the herd to around 200 deer and around 65-70 fawns were born last summer.
Our historic fallow deer herd comprises all 4 colours of the species – common, menil (the spots are more distinct than the common), melanistic (very dark), and leucistic – almost white. The white deer are not albinos - it is their natural colouring.
At the start of the year, the deer are being fed with specialist deer nuts. This ensures that they are getting all of the nutrients and minerals they need. The deer absolutely love them which means that we are able to get close to the herd when feeding.
We sometimes close West Park to visitors from late spring so that the pregnant does can move into this area to get away from the crowds. At this time the deer cull ends.
By May the deer have come in to their cycle of casting (losing) their antlers. If you see antlers lying about around the park area please leave them for the deer to eat. They act as an important supplement for the deer, adding essential minerals to their diet.
By June the adult male deer (bucks) have started to regrow their antlers and the female deer (does) are beginning to drop their fawns.
It's really important that you stick to the mown paths at this time and never, ever touch a fawn. They are wild animals: if a fawn is rejected by its mother it will die - we cannot "adopt" it.
By late July and into early August the bucks are looking magnificent with their new antlers if you can catch sight of them in the parkland.
Later the bucks start to lose the protective velvet coating from their new antlers. As they have their own blood supply it can look a bit gory, but it’s a natural process. There’s no need to be concerned, although it can look a bit grim, the deer are absolutely fine and under no stress or pain.
The autumn rut
Towards the end of September the bucks move back into West Park for the rut. The start of the rut is weather-dependent, and it’s cold weather that triggers the rutting season.
The deer are often to be seen in the orchard area and the paddock makes a great viewing point for visitors. The bucks start to spar with each other, clashing antlers and bellowing. Watch our volunteer photographer's video here.
At times we may close parts of West Park to visitors as being continually disturbed delays the rutting season. This in turn delays fawning in June - if the fawns are born too late they’ll be unable to go through the next winter with enough body weight.
Also, the bucks are full of testosterone and are trying to hold a group of does to a “lek”. This is an area of ground marked off by a buck which heavily scents the area with urine to deter any other bucks from coming in. The bucks are so engrossed, they are unaware of people approaching - unexpected sound or movement can make them dangerous both to other deer and people.
From park to plate
In October we count the deer so that we can plan ahead for the cull over winter. In order to ensure that the deer are maintained in the best possible health, we need to make sure that the land can sustain the numbers in our herd.
By November, we’ve started feeding the deer again and this can be an ideal time of year to see the herd once the parkland trees are bare.