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Cerf élaphe © MNHN - F-G Grandin

Red deer

The red deer, Cervus elaphus hippelaphus, is the largest wild mammal in France. Its bellow can be heard in the forests during autumn. Over-hunted in the past, it has been successfully reintroduced in several large forest areas which it had disappeared from.


Classe, order & family :

Mammalia, Cetartiodactyla, Cervidae

Genus :


Species :


Subspecies :


Lifespan :

15 years

Height and weight :

1.40 m at the shoulder; 250 kg at the most

Gestation :

8 months, one baby

Natural habitat :

plain and mountain forests

Diet :

grasses, leaves, fruit, brambles, etc.

Native region :


IUCN status: 

LC least concern

Way of life

Herds are composed of up to 40 females accompanies by offspring from the current year and the previous year; young males form separate groups while the older ones remain on the sidelines.

At the end of the summer, the deer enter the rutting period. Armed with their antlers, which serve as formidable weapons in battles between rivals, they emit their throaty call, the bellow, which can be heard miles away and marks their territory. During this period, they can lose up to 20% of their body weight! After the inevitable clashes, the winner will form his harem, which is composed of 10 to 30 females. Once the breeding season has finished, the males lose their antlers and resume their solitary lifestyle.

Their diet varies according to the seasons and what's available: buds and young shoots in the spring, grasses, brambles and herbaceous plants in the summer and autumn and dead leaves, bark and ferns in winter.

Distinguishing features

Also known as the European red deer, it is the largest wild animal in our territory.

The fawn has a red coat spotted with white which it keeps for two months. As for adults, their coats vary according to the season: they are reddish-brown in summer and grey-brown in winter. Males tend to be darker than females.

Antlers appear at the age of 9 months. From year to year their size increases with each growth, but the number of antlers does not indicate the animal’s age!

Males are called fawn between 6 and 12 months, and then young stags until the age of 2. Females are known as young does between the ages of 6 months and 2 years.


The red deer experienced a sharp decline at the end of the Second World War. Today, through careful management, it has recolonised a number of forests, but the fragmentation of territories to make way for railway and road networks has isolated populations, reducing genetic diversity.

The 150,000 or so recorded individuals are responsible for a great deal of damage and, in the absence of natural predators, highly regulated hunting plans allow for necessary harvesting.

Cerf élaphe © MNHN - F-G Grandin
Cerf élaphe © MNHN - F-G Grandin
Cerf élaphe © MNHN - F-G Grandin