March

Key behaviours / activities to look out for this month are:


  • Non-juvenile deer start to become more solitary

  • Mature bucks shed their velvet and become aggressive

  • Most likely month for weak individuals to die of malnutrition (particularly youngsters) after a severe winter

Even though March is meteorologically a spring month, we can still experience wintry weather at this time of the year. 


As the bucks' antlers will longer now than they were in the winter, snowfall in March is a good time to capture some images of them sporting the furry nature of the velvety covered headgear, which will be near to becoming fully grown for the oldest males.


In general, March (and possibly the very end of February) is a turning point on the roe deer's year. The days are now much longer than they were and the behaviour of the deer changes, especially in the males.


At some point, their testosterone level reaches a critical level where any further growth of the antlers comes to a halt and their rich blood supply is shut off, so the velvety sheath peels away, revealing the new crown.


But that's not most important aspect of the springtime change; it's the transition in behaviour from sociable to territorial that is most significant.


Gone are the short days of winter, where the adult bucks displayed relative congeniality towards other the males. Now his urge to dominate is reactivated, and he will spurn the company of any bucks that could be threat to him.


He will increasingly harass and chase them, hither and thither, to vanquish them from his proximity.


Head-on-head combat will only occur, though, when two similar sized bucks that are in 'hard horn' come together. ('Hard horn' meaning that the antlers are fully formed and hard.)


Most of the time, if one buck in hard horn meets another that is still in velvet, the male with the antlers that are still encased in the velvety sheath will back down.


When it comes to the order in which the males shed their velvet, changes will proceed in age order, oldest first. This how the mature males are able to secure the best territory for the forthcoming season.


For a full in-depth discussion on this, you may like to read the article "Roe deer mating behaviour and the rut, part 1", which can be found in the Deer Information section of this website.


The most likely time to see a buck displaying unusual behaviour is the actual day when the velvet starts to peel away. When that happens, he will be particularly feisty, and the loose pieces of skin dangling from his antlers can drive him crazy, sometimes causing him to leap into the air, violently shaking his head to rid the irritating tatters from his crown.


The most reliable way to capture this behaviour is to position yourself in the area where the adult buck spends most of his time, and equip yourself with a long lens, so you can make images from your vantage point without moving around, which could spook the deer.


This is also the month when the fawns start to weaken the attachment to their mother. This is most noticeable with the bucks, who will periodically wander away from the parent, going on short adventures around his home range.


His curiosity will often draw him towards seeking the company of an adult buck, who will probably offer him short shrift in the form of a short charge, if he gets too close. The adult is unlikely to pursue the young novice over a long distance though, unless he is a particularly well-developed individual. In which case, the unfortunate youngster will experience a much sterner response than a relatively minor admonishment.


This is also the time of year when the deer's body energy reserves are at their lowest. 


Since fawns only carry a very small amount of fat (never more than about 6%, which occurs in late autumn) and the fact that their surface area to volume ratio is unfavourable for conserving energy during the cold weather, they can be at risk of starvation in early spring when the food supplies are at their lowest. Once the youngsters’ reserves are down to 1.5%, the risk of dying is a very real one.


If you would like to know more about the biology of deer, you may like to read the article called, "The biology of roe deer", found in the Deer Information section.


As well as the adult bucks becoming territorial, some of the mature does will be exhibit a significant change, as well: Those that are pregnant are likely to feed more often than those that are not, and their abdomen will be noticeably more rotund, too.

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