Fallow deer (Dama dama) are mammals of cervidae family inhabiting mainly Europe, but also found in South and North America, South and North Africa, Australia and New Zealand. Fallow deer look much like dappled deer and roe deer, but they are slightly smaller than dappled deer and larger than roe deer. Males weigh approximately 100 kg and females weigh approximately 60 kg.
Fallow deer were introduced in Lithuania in early centuries, but they were extinct in approximately the 16th century. From the 17th to the 19th century in Lithuania fallow deer were grown mainly at parks of manors. 90 fallow deer were brought to Lithuania from Europe in approximately 1980; they were later released to inhabit the forests. Fallow deer are bred and kept mainly for their beauty and also for hunting.
Breeding and Spread of Fallow Deer in Lithuania
After restoration of independence of Lithuania fallow deer were bred not only by foresters, but also by some farmers.
Fallow deer are sedentary animals. In summers they like foraging at forest meadows and outer woods, in winters they seek food in young forest, shrubberies and reforestation areas. Additional feeding is necessary in order to increase the population of fallow deer.
Average lifespan of fallow deer is 15-18 years. Males use their antlers when seeking dominance over other males, so clashes are frequent. They result in weaker and younger males getting driven away and the winning male staying together with multiple females. Fallow deer mate in September or October. Females give birth in the beginning of summer and usually have 1-2 fawns at a time.
Peculiarities of Hunting of Fallow Deer
Hunting of fallow deer, just like hunting of any other animals, must be regulated and carried out in the way that does not negatively affect biodiversity, it must be aligned with the need to protect biodiversity and manage conflicts, and ensure the most ethical treatment of the animals hunted.
Fallow deer are not often hunted in Lithuania, because their population is not sizeable (for example, 7 fallow deer were hunted in 2005–2006 and 49 in 2009–2010). Male hunting season is from the 1st of September to the 31st of December, female and fawn hunting season is from the 1st of October to the 31st of December.
There is significant interest in fallow deer and hunting them. Fallow deer is a noble animal desirable as a hunting trophy and wanted by every hunter. It is very important, however, to be able to identify fallow deer. Fallow deer differ from other cervidaes in their tail length and swishing (they repel mosquitoes, flies and other pests this way). When fallow deer senses danger, it has tail in horizontal position, but continuously wags it when calm. Running away from danger it keeps its tail upright thus warning other deer. Another unique feature of appearance of fallow deer is visible blackish line along its back, extending into entire tail.
Hunters in many regions of Lithuania form and increase new fallow deer populations, and later successfully hunt these animals. Although rare in Lithuania, trophies of fallow deer hunting are highly appreciated. The largest antlers of fallow deer in Lithuania belonged to the animal hunted down in Anykščiai region in 2017: they scored 195.42 CIC.
Trophies of Fallow Deer
Trophy antlers of fallow deer are used to make jewellery, knife handles, and even ornate furniture.
Fawns get their first antlers in January and are dropped approximately after 9.5 months. Antlers of the eighth-tenth year are considered the most valuable. The bone of fully developed antlers is very hard. A fallow deer of approximately 100 kg carries antlers of up to 3 kg. Antlers can be V and U, heart or pear shaped.
Hunting trophy examinations take place in various towns of Lithuania every year, at the end of hunting season of antler-bearing animals. All the trophies are brought to one place and examined by a professional commission that analyses if the animal has been hunted appropriately and if antlers and other trophies may be considered to be displayed at the Lithuanian Hunting Trophy Exhibition held once every three years.
Meat of fallow deer is highly appreciated, because it is not as dry as that of other kinds of deer.