Why Are Female Roe Deer So Reclusive In Spring? (And The Problem With Fixed Focal Length Lenses.)

Female roe deer can be very elusive in spring, but this female got far too close to the camera - the fixed focal lens I was using meant that couldn't 'zoom out', so she looks too tight in the frame. Physically moving away was out the question too, since that would have spooked the deer for sure.  

Spring means three things for the roe deer: Adult males staking out their territories, fawns becoming yearlings (as well as leaving their mother) and adult females preparing to give birth.


In this short piece I’d like to touch on the last point: the mothers-to-be and why they can become particularly elusive at this time of year. Their behaviour patterns are all related to arrival of their new fawns; many female roe deer give birth for the first time when they are two years old and nearly all does will give birth by the time they are aged three.


Three Challenges Facing Pregnant Does in The Spring


Firstly, if the female has attendant youngsters from the previous year, she needs to part company with them. This will allow her to devote all of her energy and resources into raising her imminent new arrival(s). The release of male hormones means that the young roebucks will separate from their mother under their own accord, but the yearling does often need some ‘encouragement’ from Mum to ensure they vacate their natal range. For more details read A Roe Deer's First Year of Life and What Happens With A Roe Deer Leaves Its Mother?


Secondly, whilst the mother is actually giving birth, she, herself, is quite vulnerable, and labour can be a long drawn out process, commonly lasting one to two hours.


Thirdly, once her young have been born, the diminutive fawns are very susceptible to falling prey to a fox or being killed by a dog.


So, Here’s the Key Point


Most badgers, foxes and rabbits use the safety of subterranean hideaways to protect their young. However, deer have no option other than to give birth out in the open, therefore because of her and her fawns’ vulnerability, seclusion is essential.


The heavily pregnant doe shown in this image was accordingly frequenting an isolated field, which was situated well away from public footpaths and where the grass was long enough to safely hide away her soon to be born fawns.   


But you can see the main problem I experienced when the image was made – the lens set-up I was using had far too much ‘reach’. The doe kept getting closer and closer, until I could only just about fit her into the frame.


Ideally, the photograph should have been made at a much shorter focal length, say 550 mm, including more of the habitat into the image. But as it stands, I feel the deer is very ‘cramped’ in this picture, but I decided to put it up here anyway since I does kind of illustrate the secretive nature of the deer by the way it looks like she’s crouching down, trying to keep out of sight.      


This is why I prefer to use zoom lenses, since, within the constraints of the lens, you can alter the focal length to suit the situation in hand. With a fixed lens, you’re stuck, and the lens tends to ‘force’ the composition, and image may not ‘work’.


Technical Details of Image


Shutter time 1/800 s Aperture: f/5.6 ISO: 4000 Focal length: 800 mm

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