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The roe buck skull from the Roman Fort


In the last couple of weeks I've got six new skulls, which is amazing, and I have a lot to write about. The skull I am going to write about this week is a roe deer buck that died in the wood behind the old Roman fort in my village.

The wood is quite small, but has always had some roe deer living in it, plus lots of foxes and a few rabbits. This year, the gamekeeper said there was just one family of roe living there, and the rest had moved away.

My dad first noticed the dead buck in April. It was one of three or four that had died early in the year on that estate. Then we kept checking on it to see how it was rotting down.

This was how the body looked on the 25th April, about three months before I got the skull. You can already see the bones at the pelvis and the jaw. The fur was starting to come off, and the fur was grey, because this was its winter coat.

This is it on the 5th June, about five or six weeks later. The head is now bent back and you can see all the bones on that side of the skull. So the skull would still be fastened onto the spine with sinews, so it is best to leave it longer to rot because sinews are difficult to pull off bone.

This is it on the 20th June. The head has been pulled on the other side and is upside down in this picture. The fur on the other side hasn't come off yet.

We collected the skull at the end of June. The skull and jaws were actually now a long way from the body. But we were lucky to find all the incisors still in the jaw ! This is what they looked like:

Deer have eight incisors, and only have them on the bottom jaw, the same as sheep, but not like foxes. Incisors can be difficult to find because once they become loose, they become almost impossible to find because they are so small.

When did the roe buck die ? I think it must have been in April. The antlers are strange, because they haven't grown properly. Roe deer antlers should have about three points on each antler. (Here's another blog post I wrote about roe deer antlers). So it looks like the deer died when the antlers were growing and in velvet. But the antlers feel hard as if they had almost finished growing.

Roe deer antlers start growing in December, and finish growing in about May. But different roe deer's antlers grow at different rates. Here is a different roe deer that I saw in May. All the other roe deer's antlers were all finished, but this one was still in velvet, and the antlers were about the same size as on this skull.

It is hard to say how old it is. It has all its adult teeth through, but they are not really worn. So because roe deer are born in May, I think it was about three or four years old.

In April, after he found the body, my dad saw this roe doe in the same woods. He thought it was the mate of the dead buck, and she looks pregnant.

I hope she is managing okay by herself with the new baby.

UPDATE: Dad found a photograph he had taken of the same buck when it was alive ! You can see it here.

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