There are more than one million deer living throughout Britain today.
Only two of the six species of deer living in Britain are native - the red and roe. Fallow, Chinese water deer, muntjac and sika deer were all introduced to Britain from other countries.
Fallow deer were brought to Britain by the Normans in the 11th century, while Chinese water deer, muntjac and sika deer were all introduced to parkland or zoos at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries. Deer that escaped from these establishments now thrive in the wild.
The red deer is the largest land mammal in Britain and can grow to around four feet high at the shoulder. They can live for up to 18 years, although this is exceptional, and have a red-brown summer coat that changes to brown-grey in winter.
Roe deer grow to about two feet high at the shoulder, are reddish-brown in the summer and grey/pale brown or sometimes black in winter. They have a distinctive black muzzle and a white chin. Their maximum lifespan has been documented as 16 years, although males (bucks and stags) and females (does and hinds) rarely exceed 5 and 6/7 years respectively.
Fallow deer generally live for up to eight years but have been known to reach 16 years old. They are usually brown with white spots, although these markings may fade during the winter months. They grow to about three feet high at the shoulder.
In summer, sika deer are either red or yellow-brown with a dark stripe down the back surrounded by white spots. They are dark grey to black with faint spots in winter. They can grow up to about three feet at the shoulder and can occasionally live up to 18 years old.
The small stocky muntjac deer grows up to about one-and-a-half feet at the shoulder and may occasionally live up to 19 years old. They are russet-brown in summer and grey-brown in winter.
Chinese water deer live up to six years old and are slightly taller than muntjacs. Their coat is russet-brown in summer and pale to grey-brown in winter.
The stags or bucks (males) of red, fallow, sika, and roe deer develop antlers from one or two years of age. At first these are covered in a skin of fine hairs called velvet. As they develop, the velvet dries and rubs off, allowing the antlers to harden into fierce fighting weapons. As a deer get older, the antlers generally tend to get larger and have more branches. Some species, for example Chinese water deer, don't have antlers but have canine teeth like tusks instead.
Fighting, known as rutting, takes place during the breeding season when the males try to attract and defend groups of females (does and hinds) to stop them mating with other males. The rut can occur from mid-July to December, with the exact timing depending on the species, although muntjacs breed throughout the year. Stags and bucks can be seriously injured during these battles; they compete in roaring contests and lock antlers. After the rut, antlers are shed and grow again the following year.
Deer live mainly in woodland but some, particularly muntjac, are becoming increasingly common in many of Britain's towns and cities. This is possibly because milder winters mean that more deer survive, leading to greater demand for territory and therefore pushing some deer into urban areas. In addition, many urban areas have trees and shrubs planted alongside roads and in parks, creating new habitats for deer.