- Cervus capreolus Linnaeus, 1758
European Roe Deer, European Roe, Roe Deer, Western Roe Deer
Value of species
Game (hunting) species
The taxonomy and systematics of the European Roe Deer have been based on morphological and genetic data. The following subspecies have been confirmed by molecular data (Lorenzini et al. 2002, Randi et al. 2004, Lorenzini and Lovari 2006); 1) C. c. italicus Festa, 1925; 2) C. c. garganta Meunier, 1983 (although whether this name may refer to the subspecies of Roe Deer in South Spain awaits confirmation cf. Lorenzini et al. 2014); 3) C. c. capreolus Linnaeus, 1758. The identification of C. c. caucasicus as the correct name for a large-sized subspecies north of the Caucasus Mountains is provisional (Sempéré et al. 1996, Lister et al. 1998). Animals in the Near East have been assigned to C. c. coxi (Harrison and Bates 1991).
Recent molecular studies have detected mitochondrial DNA haplotypes of Siberian Roe Deer in Poland and Lithuania, 2000 km farther west than the western limit of its modern distribution (Lorenzini et al. 2014, Matosiuk et al. 2014, Olano-Marin et al. 2014). Genetic analyses of European Roe deer in Poland suggests that Siberian haplotypes are of ancient origin (they were not detected within the modern range of Siberian Roe Deer) and that genetic introgression occurred as the range of Siberian Roe Deer expanded as far west as Central Europe, and European Roe Deer spread east from western refugia during the last glacial maximum (Lorenzini et al. 2014, Matosiuk et al. 2014). As well or instead of introgression into western Roe, it is possible that Siberian Roe had a more western distribution during the Late Peistocene and may even have gone undetected until today, coexisting with European Roe Deer, further evidence is needed to determine the taxonomic identity of the roes in these parts of Europe that bear Siberian-type mtDNA.
The Roe Deer has a large range in the Palaearctic. It is found through most of Europe (with the exception of Ireland, Cyprus, Corsica, Sardinia, and most of the smaller islands), including western Russia (Stubbe 1999). Outside Europe, it occurs in Turkey, northern Syria, northern Iraq, northern Iran, and the Caucasus (Wilson and Reeder 2005). Along the Black Sea coast and in the northern Aegean region of Turkey, the Mediterranean sub-populations are close to extinction. It is extinct in Israel and Lebanon (Wilson and Reeder 2005) (though a re-introduction programme has started in Israel (M. Masseti pers. comm.). It occurs from sea level up to 2,400 m asl in the Alps (von Lehmann and Sägesser 1986) and Pyrenees (González et al. 2013).
In southern Europe there are two subspecies with relatively restricted ranges. C. c. italicus occurs in central and southern Italy, between southern Tuscany, Latium and Puglia, to Calabria (Lorenzini et al. 2002, Randi et al. 2004, Lorenzini and Lovari 2006). C. c. garganta occurs in southern Iberia, in particular in Andalusia (Sierra de Cádiz) (Lorenzini et al. 2002, Lorenzini and Lovari 2006, Lorenzini et al. 2014).
It is widespread and common, and is expanding in many areas. Having almost gone extinct in parts of southern Europe because of habitat loss and over-harvesting in the first half of the last century, its numbers started increasing again 20-40 years ago because of countryside abandonment, improved hunting regimes and reintroductions (Gortázar et al. 2000). Densities in the northern and southern parts of the range tend to be lower than in the central parts of the range. The central European population is estimated to number c. 15 million individuals. However, the endemic Italian subspecies Capreolus c. italicus, which is largely restricted to southern Tuscany, probably numbers no more than 10,000 individuals and is at significant risk from hybridization with introduced C. c. capreolus (Lorenzini et al. 2002, Mucci et al. 2012), which has a large, expanding population in the Italian peninsula. In addition, a small population of C. c. capreolus has been introduced to and kept in an enclosure in Nebrodi National Park on Sicily (Masseti 2011).
In Turkey, the population is estimated at 6,000-8,000 individuals and has been probably increasing in the Black Sea region for two decades due to rural population declines (H. Ambarli pers. comm.).
It occupies a wide variety of habitats, including deciduous, mixed or coniferous forests, moorland, pastures, arable land, and suburban areas with large gardens. It prefers landscapes with a mosaic of woodland and farmland (Stubbe 1999) but can survive in semi-desert environments and above the tree line seasonally. Roe Deer are well adapted to modern agricultural landscapes (Andersen et al. 1998, Danilkin 1996, Sempéré et al. 1996).
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