|The Mammals of Texas -
Artiodactyla : Family Cervidae
: Cervus dama Linnaeus
Description. A medium sized,
"rangy" deer; adult males with large palmate
antlers. Bucks develop "spike" antlers
beginning in their first year and until 3-4 years old,
grow and cast only antlers comprised of beams and simple
points. At 3-4 years of age males may develop antlers
with broad, palmate areas that measure 8-25 cm in width;
total length of antlers is up to 39 cm.
Coloration is highly variable, but four
color forms predominate: 1) common rust color with
white rump patch and belly, white spots on back and sides
merging into a white line along the lower side and near
the rump on the haunches; a black line runs down the back
and often connects with the black upper surface of the
tail; in winter, spots become indistinct; 2) menil
contrasts with common color form in that ground
coloration is tan rather than rust and dorsal lines are
brown rather than black; white spotting remains distinct
in winter coat; 3) white coloration is white, with
dark eyes; not true albinism; and 4) black very
dark (but not truly black); spotting barely visible; in
winter appears as dull brown. In Texas, black, white, and
menil color forms predominate.
Fallow deer stand 91-97 cm at the
shoulder and appear thin. Males weigh 79-102 kg but may
lose 9-23 kg during rut. Females weigh 36-41 kg.
Distribution in Texas. Native to
the Mediterranean region of Europe and Asia Minor, fallow
deer are the most widely kept of the worlds deer
and have been introduced to all inhabited continents.
This deer has been introduced to 93 Texas counties,
primarily in the Edwards Plateau region. In 1988, the
Texas population was estimated to be 14,163, both
free-ranging and confined animals combined.
Habits. Fallow deer do much of
their feeding in open, grassy areas but require tree
cover and undergrowth for shelter and winter food.
Deciduous or mixed woodlands on gently rolling terrain
are best, but conifer forests may be suitable in some
places. The Edwards Plateau region, with its mosaic of
oak mottes, juniper brushland, and grassy areas is
well-suited for fallow deer.
Food availability appears to determine
whether fallow deer in an area are predominantly grazers
or browsers. On the Kerr Wildlife Management Area (Kerr
County), fallow deer ate 54% browse, 30% grass, 12%
forbs, and 5% other, although these figures varied as the
degree of competition with domestic livestock and
white-tailed deer varied. Live oak, shin oak, hackberry,
and Spanish oak were the dominant browse species taken
while Texas wintergrass, fall witchgrass, and common
curlymesquite were the predominant grasses eaten.
Increased competition for browse with white-tailed deer
caused fallow deer to increase their dependence on
grasses, while increased livestock competition for
grasses led fallow to increase their use of browse.
Rutting may begin in mid-September and
continue into November but peak breeding activity takes
place in October. During rut, bucks mark off and defend a
small area, known as a "stand," from which
other rutting males are excluded; females and young
remain within the male territories and as each doe comes
into heat, she is followed until mating is accomplished.
After the rut, males gradually cease defending their
territories and form "bachelor groups," while
females and young remain segregated from males and in
their own groups.
The gestation period is approximately 71/2
months, with most fawning occurring from late May through
June. Generally, only a single fawn is born, although
twins are not uncommon.
Females reach sexual maturity at 16
months and can bear their first fawns by 2 years of age.
Bucks mature sexually at 14 months but rarely compete
successfully in rutting until several years later. Bucks
attain physical maturity at 6 years of age. Lifespan is
about 11-15 years, with a maximum record of 25 years.
* nonnative species
Photo credit: John L. Tveten.