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Last week, a group of female fallow deer arrived at the protected Tarutino steppe and was temporarily released into an acclimatization enclosure. They joined the males that settled here two years ago to lay the foundation for a stable population of the species in the region.
15 adult females of the European fallow deer traveled more than 800 kilometers from Chernivtsi to Odesa region to find their new home in the Tarutino steppe. The animals endured the journey well and arrived in good health. They immediately joined a group of males in a fenced area of 31 hectares of the steppe for acclimatization in new conditions.
“The fallow deer is quite undemanding to landscapes and inhabits open forests, forest-steppe, steppe, and more. It has natural habitats or was introduced by humans to many territories of Europe, America, and Africa. It easily adapts to semi-wild conditions and is actively bred in nurseries, from which it can then be released into the wild. We hope that the fallow deer, which feeds on grass and leaves, will diversify natural grazing in the Tarutino steppe and complete food chains. In addition, this agile and graceful animal is an interesting object of observation for tourists,” says Oleg Dyakov, Rewilding officer at Rewilding Ukraine.
The European fallow deer is a relative of the red deer, but smaller in size. The animal is beautifully and brightly colored, has light spots on the back and sides, a white tail and a dark stripe on the back. But there are completely white forms (albinos) and black (melanists), as well as other forms in between. Males have handsome shovel-shaped antlers, which serve as decoration and weapons in fights for females. During the rut, males roar, dig holes and have real fights, the winner of which gets the right to create a harem, and his unfortunate opponent usually leaves the battlefield with broken antlers.
“We are very happy that females have finally arrived in the steppe. A herd of eight males settled here two years ago, but due to the swine fever quarantine and then the war in Ukraine, we were unable to bring them ladies. Males have adapted well to the steppe and now they are just beginning their rutting season. So, we hope to see the baby fallow deer already in the summer of next year, – adds Oleksiy Pudovkin, an animal reintroduction specialist at Rewilding Ukraine. – Next year, the fallow deer will be released into the wild nature of the steppe to lay the foundation for a stable population of the species in this region. We are also planning a few more fallow deer releases to strengthen the group.”
Thanks to the rewilding efforts of the last three years, in addition to fallow deer, kulans, marmots, hamsters and other herbivores are returning to the Tarutino steppe landscape reserve. The return of the animals was made possible thanks to cooperation with local communities and partners, funded by the Endangered Landscapes Program (ELP) and the regional development project “Increasing the competitiveness of rural peripheral communities in the south of Odesa region by diversifying their economy.”