Please pay particular attention when driving through the Forest at this time of the year, autumn is the deer ‘rutting season’ and can cause additional road safety hazards for deer and drivers alike.
As the temperature drops at this time of year, fallow deer enter into a breeding cycle called ‘the rut’. This can last for several weeks, depending on the weather, and is particularly late in starting this year due to the warm spell we experienced in October.
During the rut, the bucks seem to become less aware of the dangers around them, such as cars on the roads throughout the Forest.
At this time, sadly, there are more road vehicle collisions involving deer. Please be particularly mindful of the potential for deer to run into the roads when you are driving throughout Epping Forest.
It is also important to keep disturbance of the deer in Epping Forest to a minimum during the rut, and dogs in particular should be kept under very close control.
The Highways Agency advice to drivers is:
- when you see deer warning signs, check your speed and stay alert
- if your headlights are on, use full-beams when you can, but dip them if you see deer, as they may ‘freeze’
- more deer may follow the first one you see
- be prepared to stop, but try not to suddenly swerve to avoid a deer; hitting oncoming traffic or another obstacle could be even worse
- if you have to stop, use your hazard warning lights
- do not approach an injured deer, it could be dangerous
You should treat a collision with a deer as an emergency, especially if someone is injured or if vehicles or deer in the road are a safety risk. Ring 999 for the police or ambulance service immediately.
Information on the rut
The fallow bucks (males) develop enlarged necks and throats, the Adam’s apple becomes more prominent and they develop a deep grunt. The bucks will hold a stand where the ground is scraped using antlers and feet and they then urinate causing a strong smelling mud. This, along with the noise and size of the buck, will draw in the does (females).
Bucks will have to defend this area from others. If there is a great difference in size between the bucks the larger will deter the smaller animal, if, however, the difference is not that great the bucks will look at any weakness in the his opponent, this will involve parallel walking and could eventually lead to a fight where the bucks will clash with their antlers until the loser will run off leaving the victor to his territory and the does. Injuries, often quite serious, can occur at this time to the deer.
Muntjac (or barking deer) are much smaller than fallow deer and breed throughout the year. They are also non-herding. Muntjac bucks have very sharp canine teeth several inches long and should not be approached as a serious injury could be inflicted.