Fallow deer – Dama dama (Linnaeus. 1758)
Medium-sized ungulate (Body length 130-170 cm, height 100-130 cm, weight 40-80 kg).
Recognizable by its long and wide palmate antlers, the reddish or yellowish-brown coat, with white spots on the back and sides. It has a short and black tail, which continues with a black stripe on the back and two short specular streaks surrounding the tail.
There are also other phenotypes in herds: one entirely creamy-white (or off-white) and the other blackish-brown, without stains and with a dark gray belly. The fourth phenotype, “menil”, is very rare and is a paler than the common one with white head and paws. The development and shape of antlers are indicative of male age.
Distribution e habitat
Native to eastern South America, this species was introduced by man throughout the Mediterranean and Northern Europe. In Italy it is widespread in the Alps and Apennines. It became extinct in Sicily at the end of the 19th century, after at least 12 centuries of presence.
In the 80s it was reintroduced by the State Forests Service in some areas (Bosco Ficuzza, Madonie). In the Madonie the current population does not exceed 300 units. It lives in open broad-leaved forests, thickets and Mediterranean sclerophyllous woods, provided these last are not too dense. In fact, it needs open spaces, meadows and glades, internal and marginal to the wood.
Nutrition, biology e reproductive cycle
Herds are made up of young and adult females and young males (fawns and yearlings). Adult bucks (2-4 years old) tend to form separate groups, as adult males (senior bucks).
The dominant males mate throughout the fall and in early summer 1-2 kids are born. These are nursed for about 3 months, after a year they are independent. The horns are renewed every year and fall in the spring. The deer is quite long-lived, living up to 25 years.
It feeds on grasses, green leaves and conifers and broadleaf trees sprouts, fruits and wild berries. In diverse ecosystems it rarely causes damage to vegetation..
Deers have a complex social system, every adult male has a harem of young females, whose magnitude is related to his rank. In early autumn the males gather in specific places, arenas or leks, where bloody battles occur to reassert dominance over herds and females.
Protection and conservation
Protected by Annex III of the Bern Convention. In protected areas where there are no natural predators, populations are usually under numerical control.