Red deer

Cervus elaphus

Red deer | APAM Archive

Species: Cervus elaphus
Class: Mammals
Order: Artiodactyls
Super order Ungulates
Common name: red deer


Present throughout the northern hemisphere, it is widely distributed in Europe, Asia Minor, Transcaucasia and temperate zones of Asia. It disappeared from much of Italy in the twentieth century as a result of hunting, surviving only in the central-eastern part of the Alps. The deer that can be found in the northern part of the Park are animals from the Stura Valley, where they have been reintroduced for hunting purposes.


The deer prefers large forests, which it leaves in the evening to reach nearby pastures. In spring, when the first grass grows, it tends to frequent the meadows at the valley bottom. For the deer, as for the roe deer, the wolf has proved to be an effective factor in limiting the population of the species. Encounters with deer in the wild are rare, but everyone can see these splendid animals at the Canavere Wildlife observatory .

Appearance and size

The deer has a long and slender body, long and narrow neck, lively, medium size eyes with oval pupils, the coat is short and smooth and the colouring varies depending on the season, sex and age. The summer coat is brownish tending to reddish while the winter coat is grey-brown. In the females the colours are more faded while the juveniles have a reddish mantle with white spots. The branched antlers are the main characteristic of the males. Every year they shed their antlers which later grow back. The length ranges from a minimum of 70 cm to a maximum of 130 cm with an average weight of 4-6 kg. The adult males can be up to 2.5 m long and 1.2 m tall at the withers with a weight between 80 and 150 kg. The females are smaller with a maximum length of 2 m and a weight of 100 kg. The tail does not exceed 20 cm in length.


Herbivorous species, it needs 10-15 kg food per day, it prefers herbaceous plants, but it also uses shrubs and trees, in some places causing serious damages to the forest vegetation.


Deer are social and polygamous animals, with a structure based on the family group of matriarchal type, composed of the adult female, the young and the young of the previous year. For most of the year the males live apart from the females, in more or less stable groups. Mating takes place between mid-September and mid-October, gestation lasts 230-240 days and the female gives birth to a single fawn already from her second year. During the mating season, it is common to hear in the woods the powerful bellowing emitted by males - if you didn't know that they are deer, you might think that these deep guttural sounds are emitted by some kind of reborn dinosaur!


life expectancy for deer is between 10 and 15 years in the wild, while in captivity it can easily reach 20 years.

Did you know that ...?

In springtime, in the tall grass of a meadow or in the thick of the woods, you may come across a newborn fawn that doesn't react to human presence and may seem abandoned. But it is not the case: these animals are fine and in their first few days this instinctive behaviour protects them from the risk of being preyed upon. To ensure that they survive, do not touch them, but leave them where they are and move away quickly, so the mother can return to look after them. If we touch them and leave our scent on them, the mother, who has only left momentarily, may no longer recognize them when she returns and, at that point, abandon them for real.

Stories, myths and legends

The deer is the king of the forest for all the children who grew up with the famous Disney cartoon "Bambi". The male can easily be distinguished from the female by his impressive antlers that are renewed every year between the end of winter and the beginning of spring (yes: deer shed their antlers every year). A large herbivore (160-210 kg for males, 90-130 kg for females), it needs 10-15 kg of vegetables every day, mainly grass. But deer can also use shrubs and tree species (e.g. fir, larch, stone pine, beech, ash) causing damage to the forest.