The water deer, also known as the European water deer, is a fascinating and adaptable species that is common in various parts of Europe. A close relative of the fallow deer, the water deer is adapted to living in watery environments and prefers to inhabit marshes, lakes, riverbanks, and wetlands.
The water deer is slightly smaller than the fallow deer, with males reaching a shoulder height of about 60 to 80 centimeters and weighing about 15 to 30 kilograms. The coat of the water deer is reddish brown with white spots in summer, similar to the fallow deer. In winter, the coat changes to a gray-brown hue, which allows for better camouflage in snow-covered landscapes.
This type of deer has developed special adaptations to live and move in water. They have longer and narrower limbs compared to land roe, which makes it easier for them to wade and swim through the water. Their hooves are wider and have a thicker hair growth, which gives them extra stability on muddy and slippery surfaces.
The aquatic deer’s diet consists mainly of aquatic plants, such as lily pads, reed grass, duckweed, and other aquatic vegetation. They are skilled swimmers and can even search for food underwater by poking their nose and eyes above the water’s surface. They are also able to swim longer distances in water to reach new food sources or to escape from predators.
Water deer tend to be solitary animals and usually stay near bodies of water. During the mating season in the fall, males gather to compete for the favor of females. Breeding occurs in the spring, and after a gestation period of about seven to eight months, one or two calves are born. Calves are already furred at birth and can stand and walk within hours of birth.
The water deer plays an important role in the wet habitats where it occurs. Through their grazing behavior, they contribute to vegetation regeneration and influence plant diversity in their habitats. They are also a source of food for predators such as wolves and foxes.
Although the water deer is protected in some areas, it still faces various threats. Habitat loss due to drainage, agriculture, and human development is affecting their populations. To ensure their existence, the protection and conservation of their natural habitats are of great importance