Deer fawn signals start of spring

Deer fawn
Deer fawn

Written by Jeannie Swales

March at last, and spring is very definitely on the way. It’s that time of year when we’ll soon start seeing new life – and little could be more 
appealing than a deer fawn.

Both roe and fallow deer give birth in May or June

This little chap is unnervingly alive-looking, considering he (or she) has been asleep in this position for, probably, the best part of a century or more. He’s part of the Scarborough Collections taxidermy section, most of which hails from the Victorian period.

It’s hard to tell whether he’s a roe or a fallow fawn. Both look quite similar, with the distinctive dappling on the back which camouflages them as they lay nestled in the grass – the mothers can often leave them for hours at a time, returning several times a day to suckle them. The roe deer loses its dappling by the time it’s about three months old, while the fallow keeps its spots throughout its life.

Both roe and fallow does give birth in May or June, the 
roe doe usually bearing between one and three fawns, while the rather larger fallow doe gives birth to a single 
fawn or, very occasionally, twins.

I’ve tried to avoid the obvious, but it’s unavoidable, given our picture: Bambi, created by Austrian children’s author Felix Salten, and later animated by Disney, was a roe deer.

There are six species of deer living wild in Britain, only two of which are truly indigenous – the red and the roe (although the roe became largely extinct by the 1700s, and was later 
re-introduced).

The fallow deer is believed to have been introduced to this country by the Normans in the 11th century.

The other three species –the muntjac, the Chinese water deer and the sika – all originate from Asia, and were introduced here in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, into zoos and collections, the muntjac escaping from Woburn Park in Bedfordshire in the early 20th century, the Chinese water deer from Whipsnade in the 1920s, and the sika from, probably, a deer park in Enniskerry, Eire, in the 1860s.

The fawn is part of the Scarborough Collections, the name given to all the museum objects that have been acquired by the borough over the years, now in the care of Scarborough Museums Trust.

For further information, please contact Collections Manager Jennifer Dunne on Jennifer.dunne@smtrust.uk.com or (01723) 384510.