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Sustainable Shakespeare – Deer Spotting at Shakespeare’s Family Homes

Ay, here's a deer… (Henry VI, Act 3 Scene 1)

Andrew Anderson

Lately we have been capturing lots of deer activity on our wildlife cameras and some of our staff have even seen these normally shy creatures active around our sites.

We have two very distinct species of deer who come to visit us here at the Trust.

The first are Roe Deer, the most common native deer in the UK. Roe Deer are usually solitary, although recently two were seen together. It’s possible they may have been mother and fawn. Although Roe Deer fawns usually leave their mother in the spring, many stay close to their mother’s territory and will return in their second or third winters. With the ‘false autumn’ we are seeing after our hot, dry summer, it is possible that these deer may be getting into groups earlier than we would normally expect.

The other type of deer we see on our cameras are Muntjac. These are much smaller than Roe Deer and are actually a non-native species whose ancestors were introduced to Woburn in Bedfordshire in the 1900s. Muntjac populations can be found across the south of Britain and are clearly active in Warwickshire.

Deer appear many times in Shakespeare’s plays and are used a number of times in the imagery conjured up by his characters. His familiarity with the creatures may stem back to his youth in Stratford. According to an oral tradition that started at least as early as the 1680s, Shakespeare poached Fallow Deer from the estate of Sir Thomas Lucy. The story goes that he fled to London to escape punishment.

Whether or not this story is true, we love seeing deer on our wildlife cameras. Population sizes on our sites are currently at good levels and they are clearly enjoying the diversity of food and relative safety our sites bring them.

To find out more about how the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust is becoming more sustainable and encouraging biodiversity at Shakespeare's Family Homes visit our Sustainable Shakespeare page.