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                 Roe deer tracking research project in Belgium
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Peter Baert

last update: February 24, 2005

The project is sponsored by Belgian Railroads (NMBS) in the framework of the high speed line construction Antwerp-Dutch boarder.


Flanders (Belgium) is probably one the most fragmentated regions in Europe. Having a population density of 443 citizens/km2, about 25% of the total surface area (13,522 km2) is completely urbanized, while another 62% is taken up by agriculture. Circa 69.000 km roads run through Flemish territory, as do several canals. As a result average size of nature reserves in Flanders is less than 40 Ha. 

This fragmentation leads on the one hand to increased isolation of the different populations and on the other to increased human-animal interaction/conflicts. For roe deer construction of fenced off highways and rail-infrastructure often leads to an increased  number of traffic collisions on neighbouring roads. Damage in forests, fields and gardens is in Flanders also on the rise.

One option to control such unwanted effects is to reduce population size via hunting. Although this option certainly has its merits, it does not solve the problem of isolation. Several aspects of the biology of roe deer indicate that increased isolation and overabundance might disrupt the social structure of the different populations and can upset the genetic balance of the species. To avoid such problems one can either try to connect the different regions via i.e. ecoducts. Another option is translocation of animals (figure 1 and 2).

Fig. 1: Jim (left) and Jan (right) carrying the box with a roe deer which will be soon released




Fig. 3: Roe deer buck “Petit” just outfitted with a GPS GSM collar


This study aims at getting a better insight in the behavior of translocated animals to suitable habitats having a roe deer population. In total five animals were translocated and fitted with GPS-GSM collars (two buks - and three goats, one has a Televilt collar, the rest Vectonic Aerospace collars) . Animals were transferred during late autumn and winter, when roe deer are not territorial. Questions which will be adressed is:

  • 1. do animals first cover long distances after which homeranges shrink once a suitable place is found
  • 2. Can the animals establish a territory in spring (both male and female roe deer make territories)
  • 3. are there differences between the sexes in the ability to establish a territory
  • 4. do animals reproduce (only the females).


First results

First results (figure 4) indicate that contrary to what is seen in other countries roe deer in Flanders do not cover long distances but stay in the reserve where they are released. This could be partly due to the fact that this reserve 1) has excelent habitat qualities 2) is large 3) is surrounded by busy roads. Still, as animals only make territories in spring, these results are only indicative.


Fig. 4 : GPS location points of 4 roe deer,  2004 - 2005


The more that one goat already left the reserve, quickly visited nearby Netherland (circa 8km north-west of the reserve) and next returned to Belgium where she now lives in a small forest (fig. 5).

Fig. 5 : Location points of a female roe deer, 2004




Author's address:

Peter Baert
Institute for Forestry and Game Management
Ministry of the Flemish Community
Gaverstraat 4
B - 9500 Geraardsbergen
Belgium                                        peter.baert@lin.vlaanderen.be





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