We studied feeding activity and dietary components of hand-reared European roe deer (Capreolus capreolus) in Israel. Our ultimate goal was to assess habitat suitability for future reintroduction of the species, which has been locally extinct for nearly a century. Activity patterns, diet composition, and body mass of four does were monitored in two (fenced) typical east Mediterranean habitats: mature forest and scrubland recovering from fire. Food supplements were provided between trials. Throughout the year, the deer exhibited diurnal and nocturnal activity, mostly at dawn and dusk. Diet composition varied considerably between seasons and habitats, demonstrating the opportunistic flexibility of the deer. In both habitats, the deer fed on over 85% of the plant species but preferred a particular plant species or parts. In summer and early autumn, fruits and seeds became the dominant portion of their diet. In our semi-natural experimental setup, deer maintained body mass through the winter and spring. Weight loss occurred as the dry season advanced, but the animals rapidly regained mass when annuals and grasses became available following the first rains. In the east Mediterranean habitats, water availability seems more problematic for deer survival than food availability.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
Acknowledgments We are grateful to Roger Lambert for his advice on hand-rearing and handling, to Shalom Cohen for veterinary assistance, and to the Hai-Bar Carmel staff: Avinoam Lourie and Yaakub Maklade. We thank Dr. Marcus Clauss, University of Zurich, for exceptionally thorough and helpful criticism and comments. This work was partially funded by the University of Haifa, the Rieger Foundation, the Fraenkel Foundation, and the Ramat HaNadiv Foundation.
- Diet composition
- Mediterranean forest
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Nature and Landscape Conservation
- Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law