Ligi, K. and Randveer, T. 2012. Pre-winter Diet Composition of Estonian Red Deer (Cervus elaphus L.) in Estonia. Baltic Forestry 18(1): 150-155 (Brief Report).

The present study was carried out on three different red deer (Cervus elaphus L.) local populations in Estonia, located on the islands of Saaremaa and Hiiumaa and in Southern Estonia. The diet composition of red deer was studied from September to the end of November by analysing rumen contents of 141 animals, culled during the hunting seasons from 2004 – 2009. Grasses and forbs formed the main component of red deer diet throughout the period, comprising on average 81% of the volume. The dietary diversity was higher in September and November, when red deer consumed more shoots from deciduous trees, fruits, lichen, crops and dwarf shrubs, and lower in October when red deer consumed mainly grasses. Conifers are less frequently used as a food source than deciduous trees. The results of the study show that red deer browsing in pre-winter period has no significant effect on silviculture because the main tree species in red deer diet are not economically significant. However, the situation may change in late winter, when, due to the limited availability of grasses, the percentage of woody plants in the red deer diet probably increases.

Key words: red deer, Cervus elaphus, diet composition, rumen content