Southwick’s Zoo is home to a 35 acre Deer Forest where you can get up close and personal with Eurasian Fallow Deer. The Deer Forest has two route options. There is a main walkway that consists of a short and more direct route from one entrance to the other with a feeding station ($.50 – quarters only) where you can purchase a handful of deer feed. If you take the longer route through the Deer Forest, not only will you enjoy interacting with the deer as they roam their vast habitat, but the shady walkway takes you into a tranquil woodland forest. Follow the winding walkway through a beautiful native ecosystem complete with a pond featuring painted turtles, frogs, and tadpoles. Sometimes you can even spot a red-tailed hawk soaring high among the trees.
The Deer Forest is a must see. In fact, the Deer Forest is one of the two animal contact areas at the zoo. While in Deer Forest, please feed only what is provided in the feed machines as other feed or human foods can be harmful to the animals. For your safety and the safety of the animals, stay on the walkway while in the Deer Forest.
As always, please walk slowly and talk softly in the Deer Forest to enjoy the deer in a natural environment! “Take nothing but pictures, Kill nothing but time, Leave nothing but footsteps.”
Scientific Name: Dama Dama Class: Mammalia
Other Names: European Deer, Eurasian Fallow
Appearance: The common variety of fallow deer has a brown coat with white mottles (spots or patches of color) that are most pronounced in summer with a much darker coat in the winter. Coat color variations can be completely white to almost black. The fallow deer is over four feet in length with a seven inch tail. They can weigh up to 220 lbs. Only bucks (males) have antlers and they are usually broad and shovel-like.
Lifespan: Fallow Deer is approximately 12 years, but have known to live longer.
Habitat: Fallow deer are found primarily in Europe, mostly in England but have also been observed in parts of Asia. They populate the grassland and forested areas. Fallow Deer are herd (group of species that remain together) deer. They don’t have territories, but will have a home range over which they will travel, foraging for food. Ranges will overlap those of other herds.
Diet: Mostly grasses, leaves, and herbs. Like most deer, Fallow deer seem to acquire their water requirements mostly from what they eat or from dew and are rarely seen drinking. When undisturbed, the deer can be seen feeding at all times of the day. However, the main feeding activity takes place around dawn and dusk. Fallow Deer are ruminants (physiologically, a ruminant, is a mammal that digests plant-based food by initially softening it within the animal’s first stomach, known as the rumen, then regurgitating the semi-digested mass, known as cud, and chewing it again) and between feedings will lie up in some undisturbed area to ruminate and chew the cud.
Predators: Wild predators include wolves, lynx, and bear. Fawns (baby deer) are occasionally taken by foxes. Man will hunt this deer for sport or population control.
Fun Facts: The Fallow Deer at Southwick’s Zoo are known to be very approachable and will take deer feed provided by the zoo from your hand. Every winter, the deer shed their antlers to grow new ones, the new emerging antler is know as velvet because of it’s amazing soft coating. Prior to rut season, in late August, the shedding of the antlers begin. The deer will rub their antlers on trees and rocks to facilitate the shedding, this causes bleeding making it appear as though the deer is hurt, but this is all part of the shedding process. Hundreds of years ago in England, Fallow deer were known as “King of Beasts” and were considered possessions of the king. Noblemen needed permission from the King to hunt deer on their own property. Fallow deer in the wild live in two herds. The adult bucks herd together while the females and young are another herd. They come together in mating season. The Fallow doe (female) is the most vocal, she will communicate with her fawn and other members of the doe group with a variety of squeaks and bleats throughout the year.