One of the lesser known facts about deer is that as well as being very athletic creatures on land they are also strong and able swimmers that will readily take to the water. They are known to naturally disperse and migrate across lakes, strong flowing rivers and arms of the sea.
Deer have hollow body hairs which assist buoyancy and have strong hind legs which enable them to swim long distances, up to 10 miles have been claimed from the United States.
According to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Whitetail deer, a close relative of our native Roe, can swim at 13 mph, this compares favourably with the Lymington to Yarmouth ferry which struggles to top 9 mph on its 5 mile crossing.
Around the coast of the UK Red, Roe, Sika and Muntjac are often seen swimming, whilst paradoxically the marsh dwelling Chinese Water Deer appears to be the species least likely to be seen in the sea.
The Solent is no exception to this and island status poses no barrier to deer migrating from the mainland to the Isle of Wight. Even as long ago as the 17th century Sir John Oglander recounts the tale of a distinctive red deer stag that swum across to the island whilst being hunted and took up residence on his Rowborough estate. He tells of how this deer used to disappear during the rut only to reappear afterwards and his belief was that it returned to the mainland during this time, this is entirely within what we now know to be the habits of rutting red deer stags.
More recently in both the 20th and current century Roe and Muntjac have been photographed swimming in the Solent and their presence has been described by members of the public and conservation groups such as the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust.
Isle of Wight Deer Conservation are currently conducting a survey of the island’s deer population, including those seen swimming around the Solent and coastal areas.
If you have seen any deer please take part in the Isle of Wight Deer Survey locations will be treated with strictest confidence. For periodic updates please visit Isle of Wight Deer Conservation or email email@example.com
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For photos of deer on the Isle of Wight please see the Isle of Wight Deer Album