Observations on a red deer (Cervus elaphus) in the province of Drenthe, the Netherlands, during the winter of 2018-2019

Abstract: Red deer (Cervus elaphus) are rare in the Dutch province of Drenthe. Most observations in the past decades were found to be linked to escapes or illegal introductions. In all of those cases, the animals were shot, in accordance with the policy of the province. This article describes a red deer of wild origin, wintering south of Assen in the period December 2018 - May 2019. Intensive surveillance of tracks, combined with camera trapping and analysis of DNA from droppings was conducted to study its home range, behaviour and origin. Within less than half a year, over 1300 observations of this individual were collected. Pictures from camera traps revealed a 3-4 year old male deer. Based on regularly visited locations, its home range was estimated to be over 2000 hectares. This specimen was almost strictly nocturnal. In agricultural areas it was found foraging occasionally on grassland and crop remains of potatoes, flower bulbs and sugar beets. Basic data of Dutch red deer track measurements were never published before, this article provides the first documented set. DNA analysis showed a clear similarity with the red deer population from the Kroondomeinen area at the Veluwe (province of Gelderland), 85 km from the wintering range in Drenthe.