Photo of Red deer

Red deer, like their smaller cousins the Roe deer, are common in France (and much of Europe).

In France there is a large amount of forested land, the natural habitat of the red deer, and several remote and rural areas have quite large populations. Each family of red deer requires approximately 25 square kilometres of terrain.

They are one of the largest mammals found, and most of their historical predators, such as wolves and bears, are now only found in isolated pockets. Hence availability of natural habitat, and man, are now the main restrictions on their population growth. There is a large infant mortality rate, however, as the fawns are prey to foxes and even birds of prey.

The male red deer in France weighs 150-200kg and shoulder height is 150cm. The female (known as a 'biche' in France) is a little more than 100kg. The coat of the red deer is, well, red-brown although it becomes more grey during the winter. There is a lighter strip along the underside of the animal.

It feeds from usually from dusk to dawn, and is therefore less commonly seen during the height of the day. The females usually live in small herds, whereas the males often live alone or in pairs - in any event the deer live in single-sex groups.

The red deer is herbivorous, with a diet depending on the region. Pine trees, brambles, fruit, grass, and young tree shoots are commonly eaten, as are fruit and sometimes sweetcorn in cultivated regions.

Only the male red deer has antlers, which are lost and regrown each year, in time for the autumn mating season. The mating season is from August to October, during which time the males contest for the females, often extremely noisily, with a mix of roaring, grunting and braying noises. (Scary in the middle of the night if you are not familiar with it!)

Red deer are hunted in France, but their population is still on the increase in many areas.

See more wildlife in France.