Charlecote's deer through the year

Fallow deer buck in autumn in parkland at Charlecote Park

Our fallow deer herd is one of the things our visitors love most about Charlecote. Keep your distance please, they are large wild animals and easily startled.

You may catch a glimpse of the fawns in West Park in summer
Fallow deer doe with fawn in summer parkland at Charlecote Park

Our deer roam freely around the parkland, coming right up to the house and outbuildings when visitors are gone. If you take a walk in the wider parkland 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. Our ranger and her team do not handle the deer and visitors should never attempt to touch the deer.

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

Part of the 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.

Winter feeding

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

We sometimes close West Park to visitors in March so that the does can begin to move across, ready to drop their fawns.  At this time the deer cull ends.

Losing antlers

In April and May the deer 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 a supplement for the deer, adding essential minerals to their diet.

This buck seems fairly relaxed about having lost his antler
Fallow deer with one antler in parkland at Charlecote

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.

If you stroll slowly and quietly through West Park at this time you may spot a fawn hidden in the long grass or nettles. It's really important that you stick to the mown paths at this time and never, ever touch a fawn.

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

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 new antlers but it causes them no distress
Fallow deer at Charlecote Park shed the velvet from their antlers in summer

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.

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

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. Our award-winning venison is available frozen in packs in the Pantry shop and Avenue plant shop.

A winter's day is an ideal opportunity to see the deer
Fallow deer at Charlecote Park on frosty day in winter

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.