Skip to content

Species Spotlight: Roe Deer Behaviour


The roe deer, which is a relatively small yet impressively adaptable species of deer, presents a fascinating subject for wildlife enthusiasts and researchers alike. These creatures captivate our interest with their ability to thrive in a variety of environments, demonstrating a remarkable level of adaptability. This post is dedicated to exploring the intriguing world of the roe deer, with the aim of shedding light on the various behaviours exhibited by these animals. We will delve into their unique traits, survival tactics, and interaction patterns to provide a more comprehensive understanding of their behaviour, which is just as complex and fascinating as the deer themselves.

Foraging Behaviour

Roe deer, which are primarily browsers, have a meticulously curated diet that consists of leaves, shoots, and berries. Unlike other species that simply consume what’s most readily available, roe deer showcase a unique method of foraging. They demonstrate a preference for food items based on their nutritional value and palatability, rather than mere availability. This discerning approach to feeding ensures that they receive the optimal balance of nutrients necessary for their survival and overall health. Their feeding habits also reflect an adaptation to their environment and a strategy to minimize the risk of predation. They typically forage during the early morning and late evening hours, when visibility is lower and they can blend into their surroundings more effectively. Their preferred feeding grounds are often open areas where visibility is good, allowing them to spot potential predators from a distance. This behaviour is an integral part of their survival strategy, highlighting their adaptability and keen sense of their environment.

Resting Behaviour

Roe deer, a species well-known for their distinctive resting behaviours, have developed unique adaptations that allow them to thrive in their natural habitats. Unsurprisingly, they display such behaviours predominantly during the daylight hours, when they can often be found seeking solace in the dense undergrowth or the sheltered woodland areas, their favored spots for rest. The selection of these locations is by no means random, but rather a strategic choice that provides ample protection from potential predators. The most commonly observed position for these animals during these periods of rest is lying down. This posture isn’t just for relaxation, but it also serves a crucial biological purpose. The act of lying down affords them the opportunity to ruminate effectively and efficiently, a process that is essential for their survival as it enables the optimal digestion of their food. Such intricate behaviours and survival strategies underline the complexity of these creatures and their incredible adaptability to their surroundings.

Grooming Behaviour

Grooming is an integral and essential part of the daily routine for roe deer. They meticulously groom every part of their bodies, from the tuft of their tail to the tips of their ears, making use of both their tongues and their antlers as tools. This grooming behaviour serves multiple purposes. Not only does it help them maintain a clean and healthy coat, but it also aids significantly in the removal of parasites. By grooming themselves, roe deer are proactively ensuring their health and hygiene, contributing to their overall well-being and survival in the wild.

Social Behaviour

Roe deer, known for their solitary nature, often prefer to live alone, yet they simultaneously display a range of social behaviours that add to the complexity of their interactions. These deer, while traditionally seen as independent creatures, can exhibit mutual grooming habits. This behaviour is especially noticeable during the warm summer months when the presence of parasites increases significantly. By engaging in this grooming activity, they not only maintain hygiene but also strengthen social bonds among each other, creating a sense of community. Furthermore, play is a common behaviour among these animals, particularly among their young ones. Engaging in playful activities serves a dual purpose – it not only aids their physical development, ensuring they grow strong and agile, but also sharpens their social skills. This social interaction, while seemingly innocuous, equips them with necessary survival skills for the future, thereby playing an integral role in their overall development and adaptation to their environment.


Roe deer, a species renowned for their seemingly docile nature, exhibit a marked change in behaviour during the breeding season. This period is characterized by heightened aggression, particularly among the males of the species. It is during this critical time that males engage in fierce and highly competitive fights for mating rights. These confrontations often involve biting and chasing, tactics used to display dominance and secure a mate. These fights, while rarely resulting in fatalities, can lead to serious injuries. The injuries sustained during these encounters can range from minor scratches to more serious wounds, demonstrating the intensity and potential danger of these conflicts.


Roe deer employ a diverse range of vocalizations as a primary means of communication. Among these, the most frequently heard are the barking calls, which serve an essential function in alerting the rest of the herd to potential threats in the vicinity. This alarm system helps ensure the safety and survival of the group. During the mating season, an interesting behavioural change takes place. The males, in an attempt to attract the attention of potential mates, make a distinct sound known as the roe-buck call. This unique call signifies the male’s readiness to mate and allows them to stand out among their rivals, thereby increasing their chances of reproduction.


Roe deer primarily rely on walking as their main form of locomotion. This characteristic feature of their mobility allows them to navigate their environment with relative ease. However, this doesn’t mean that they are lacking when it comes to speed. Quite the contrary, when they find themselves under threat, these creatures can exhibit impressive bursts of speed. Not only can they run at an impressively high speed, but they are also known for their agility, a trait that allows them to change direction swiftly when escaping predators. On top of this, they possess a remarkable jumping ability, enabling them to effortlessly clear obstacles in their path. This combination of speed, agility, and leaping prowess makes them a formidable species in their natural environment.

Reproductive Behaviour

During the mating season, which is also known as the rut, males of many species put on quite a show as they perform elaborate courtship displays with the sole aim of attracting females. These displays are not simple or straightforward; they involve a series of intricate and complex behaviours. One of these behaviours includes marking their territory. This is not only a show of dominance but also a clear message to other males to stay away. In addition to this, they also engage in the activity of chasing potential mates. This is a clear demonstration of their interest and also their physical abilities. Lastly, they are also known to engage in fights with rivals. These fights, often violent and intense, are a way for them to prove their strength and dominance to the potential mates. All these behaviours together make up the elaborate courtship display during the mating season.

Read more about the Roe Deer Annual Rut

Home Range and Territorial Behaviour

Roe deer are a species that exhibits a high degree of territorial behaviour. Male roe deer, in particular, are known to mark their territories using a unique method, which involves the secretion of scent from their preorbital glands. This scent serves as a clear signal to other deer, delineating the boundaries of their territory.

In addition to this, roe deer also employ visual cues to establish their territories. They do this by scraping the ground with their hooves, a behaviour that leaves a noticeable mark on the landscape. They also use their antlers to create markings, which serve as another clear sign of their territorial claim.

The size of the territory that a roe deer claims as its own can vary quite significantly. This variation is largely dependent on a couple of key factors, including the availability of food and the quality of the habitat in the area. On average, however, the size of a roe deer’s home range tends to fall somewhere between 50 to 150 hectares.


The roe deer, a fascinating species, exhibits a highly diverse behavioural repertoire. This wide-ranging set of behaviours is a testament to their remarkable adaptability to different environments and conditions. Whether they find themselves in dense forests, open fields, or even urban environments, roe deer are able to adjust their behaviours to survive and thrive. Studying these intricate behaviours, from their foraging habits to their mating rituals, can provide us with valuable insights into their unique ecology. Understanding their behavioural patterns and needs can highlight the impacts of certain environmental changes, and thus, can help inform and shape effective conservation efforts. By ensuring we have an in-depth understanding of the roe deer’s behaviours, we can better protect this intriguing species and ensure its continued survival in our ever-changing world.

Photos of Roe Deer Behaviour

Companions. Adult Roe buck in velvet and doe in winter coats.

Roe deer companions feeding together in a winter meadow.

Roe deer siblings grooming each other in a foggy field.

Roe deer siblings grooming each other in a foggy field.

Scruffy roe deer family moulting winter coat prior to dispersal.

Roe deer family moulting winter coat prior to springtime dispersal in the English countryside.

A young roe buck lies down to ruminate in a meadow during the annual rut.

A young buck lies down to ruminate in a meadow during the annual rut.

A mature roe buck selectively browsing in a pasture during the summer rut

A mature Roe deer buck selectively browsing in a pasture during the summer rut.

A female roe deer grooming herself, while looking for a buck.

Doe grooming herself, while looking for a buck.

Territorial roe buck following ground scent of another roe deer.

Territorial buck following ground scent of another roe deer.

A young Roe deerbuck moistens his nose to improve sensitivity during the summer rut

A young Roe deerbuck moistens his nose to improve sensitivity during the summer rut.

Back To Top