New Forest Deer
The New Forest is full of beautiful wildlife that visitors can enjoy watching, one of the animals that makes the New Forest woodland its home are deer.
The five main types of deer that can be found here in the New Forest are:
Deer are notoriously shy animals and tend to keep to the quieter parts of the forest during the day, but at dusk and dawn they can venture near the roadsides so please do take care when driving.
Deer are herd animals and move together in groups so are rarely alone, the forest woodland provides good cover and shelter from the elements.
Top places to see deer in the New Forest
At Bolderwood Deer Sanctuary, near Lyndhurst, the deer get fed daily between the months of April and September. It is here that you will find herds of fallow deer regularly gathering around as they wait for a Forestry England Ranger to come and feed them. If you are lucky and time it right you can watch them being fed from the viewing platform. The feeding takes place anytime (when a ranger is free) between 12.30pm and 2.30pm.
If you are looking for a little adventure then a New Forest deer safari, based near Burley is great for those that are looking for exciting things to do with children as it offers a unique chance to get close to some of our deer. Enjoy watching the herd of shy red deer and the occasionally visiting fallow deer from the back of a trailer. As the deer are used to the noise of the tractor and trailer you can get within a short distance of them.
The Sika deer tend to be found to the south of the New Forest, around the Beaulieu area. Not a native breed of deer to the UK, the small herd has bred from two deer that escaped from the Beaulieu estate in the early 20th century.
Autumn is a good time of year to see deer as it is rutting (mating) season for most species.
Discover more about some of our deer species found in the New Forest below:
It is believed that fallow deer were first introduced into Britain by the Romans before becoming extinct in UK after the fall in the Roman empire. It wasn’t until the 11th century that these deer were reintroduced to the country. The New Forest was also William the Conqueror’s first hunting forest in England.
In the seventeenth century the deer census in the New Forest was reported to be a population of 7,500 fallow deer, today there are about 1,300 however they remain widespread throughout England and Wales.
Fallow deer are about one metre high, and are most easily spotted by their distinctive black and white rump. In the summer months the fallow deer have a light chestnut-coloured coat with white spots, this then changes to an unspotted grey-brown coat in the winter months. The fallow deer is the only native deer with palmate antlers. These antlers can reach up to 70cm long.
The female deer (doe) gives birth to a single fawn in June or July after a gestation of 229 days. Bucks (male deer) generally live for 8– 10 years although have been known to live as long as 16 years.
Roe deer are rather small measuring just 60-75cm in height.
The rump is white and Roe Deer also have a white patch under the chin. They have short, three-pointed antlers. The roe deer’s winter coat is a grey-brown colour, but then changes in the summer to a bright red and brown coat.
Roe deer are common and widespread throughout England. At the last count there were 365 roe deer in The New Forest. They tend to graze on a variety of foods including brambles, heather and tree shoots. The peak time of activity for roe deer is usually at dawn and dusk.
Breeding season tends to occur between mid-July to mid-August and gestation usually lasts nine months.
At 1.2 metres high the red deer is the largest wild animal in Britain. They are rich red-brown in colour with a pale brown patch on the backside and are a native species to the UK, having migrated from Europe 11,000 years ago.
Their breeding season tends to be from the end of September until November.
Red deer like to feed on grasses and shrubs such as heather.
Red deer are found mainly the west of the New Forest as Forestry England aims to maintain the herds in this area to avoid the risk of cross-breeding with Sika deer. There is a population of around 125 Red deer in the National Park.
Originally from Japan, the New Forest sika are descended from those given to the 2nd Baron Montagu of Beaulieu by King Edward VII.
Sika are kept in the Beaulieu area by Forestry England to avoid cross-breeding with the Red deer found in the west of the New Forest. Numbers are maintained at about 100.
Sika deer are of similar size and colour to fallow deer but slightly darker. They like to graze on shrubs, particularly heather, and grasses.
Their breeding (or rutting) season occurs from the end of September to November and Doe’s have a gestation period of 7½ months.
Sika tend to be active throughout a 24 hour period although more active in darkness.
Muntjac are small, dog-sized creatures with long back legs and are often called barking deer as they repeatedly bark loudly; they also scream or squeak when alarmed. Muntjac are not often seen in the New Forest: however you are most likely to spot them around Beaulieu.
Muntjac can breed all year round, with the females able to conceive again within days of giving birth.
Muntjac numbers are increasing so Forestry England has a policy of culling them because they represent a threat to the native Roe deer.
Care for our Deer
The New Forest National Park is a wonderful place to visit and you can help it stay that way by being a Forest friendly visitor.
Your food and litter could harm the deer, ponies and donkeys. Please take your litter home if bins are full.