Charlecote's deer through the year

Taking your rubbish home helps to keep our wildlife happy and healthy

Our fallow deer herd is one of the things our visitors love most about Charlecote.

In the spring the bucks shed their antlers, while the does rest during the later stages of their pregnancy.

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.

Can you spot all four colours of our fallow deer herd today?
Four colours of fallow deer species at Charlecote Park
Can you spot all four colours of our fallow deer herd today?

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.

 

Spring - shedding coats and pregnant does

As the weather warms up, the deer shed their winter coats and you can often see them relaxing in the spring sunshine in Front Park. 

By Easter, the does are heavily pregnant and are seeking quiet, secluded spaces where they feel safe. The deer sanctuary is an area they can go which is not open to the public, which helps provide them with this safe resting space.

Spring - bucks losing antlers

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.

It's fine - it's the look I wanted... the bucks lose their antlers in late spring
Fallow deer buck with one antler in parkland at Charlecote
It's fine - it's the look I wanted... the bucks lose their antlers in late spring

Summer - the arrival of fawns

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.

The does try to hide their fawns - but our volunteer photographer often finds them
Fallow deer doe with fawn in parkland at Charlecote
The does try to hide their fawns - but our volunteer photographer often finds them

Summer - bucks growing new antlers

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 fallow deer shed the velvet from their antlers in August - it causes them no distress
Charlecote Park's fallow deer shed the velvet from their antlers in summer - a natural process which causes them no distress
The fallow deer shed the velvet from their antlers in August - it causes them no distress

Autumn - the rut begins

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.

A fallow deer buck prepares to take on the other bucks in the autumn rut
Fallow deer buck prepares for rut at Charlecote Park in autumn
A fallow deer buck prepares to take on the other bucks in the autumn rut

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.

Winter - extra food

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.

Feeding the deer in winter enables us to get close to the herd and check their health
Feeding fallow deer in winter in parkland at Charlecote
Feeding the deer in winter enables us to get close to the herd and check their health

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.