Roe Deer Sparring
After last year’s youngsters have left their mother – who is now probably raising more young – the does tend to stay fairly close to their natal home range, whereas the bucks can often move further afield.
In general, the young bucks will only wander as far as they need to in order to meet their basic life requirements of food / water, along with sufficient, undisturbed cover.
But when moving from one home range to another, the males will run into conflict with other roebucks. Some of these encounters will be with adult males, who, throughout most of the summer, will be firmly ensconced in a well-established territory. The elders will be larger, more powerful and they will possess a more impressive head adornments than the youngsters - any transgression by a yearling into the domain of a territorial beast, will be met with aggression.
The young males initially tend to get pushed from one area to another, but they eventually settle in a range where harassment from the older males in minimal. Although these youngsters do not become territorial in their first year away from their mother, they do exhibit territorial tendencies – such as spending much of their time in one core area, marking certain spots with their scent, along with being very solitary in their nature.
In their first year of independence, the young deer must prepare for their adult life. In doing so, it’s probably reasonable to say that the junior bucks have a lot more learning and adapting to do, than their same aged sisters.
Roebucks are hardwired to dominate, so along with many other essential life skills common to both sexes, the males also have to discover how to avoid attracting the attention of the aggressive, territorial males and well as refining, their own combative ability for their later life.
How Was This Photograph Taken?
Having been on the range since before sunrise, and seen little of note, I discretely made my way into a specific field in the territory, where I was half expecting to find one particular yearling buck, who seemed to have taken up residence in the vicinity.
The young male was, indeed, present at the time, along with the added bonus of being in the company of his twin brother, too.
I’d not seen them together for a couple of months, as they tended to stay in opposing corners of the range, but on this particular July morning, one of them had decided to wander into his brother’s patch.
There were no hostilities between the two, unlike what would happen if the same thing happened in a year or two’s time. Instead, they mainly moved along the bush-line, feeding for the most part, but every now and then, the buck, who had claimed ‘ownership’ of this particular field, would come up to his brother and chase into the open part of the field.
There they would push and shove each other, ‘locking horns’ for a few moments. There was nothing particularly aggressive about the confrontation; just two young bucks learning the roe deer equivalent of the ‘noble art’.
Watching the two youngsters preparing themselves for the rough combat that they lay ahead in their lives, was a real pleasure, but of course, capturing it in a photograph was rather more challenging!
The pair tussled a number of times, but the problem was that their bodies would inevitably be positioned at an awkward angle to the camera, meaning it was hard to see both of their heads at the same time.
Eventually, though, they did position themselves parallel the camera and it was possible to make this shot.
Incidentally, it was the resident buck (the one on the right in the image) that won each mini ‘battle’. This is the same behaviour pattern you see went two adult bucks engage in full-on, territorial combat; resident males seem to have a distinct home advantage during territorial disputes.
For further, detailed information on want happens to roe deer after they have left their mother, I recommend you read What Happens When A Deer leaves Its Mother, too.
Technical Details of Image
Shutter time: 1/800 s Aperture: f/4 ISO: 450 Focal length: 300 mm