tweeter's picture

RoeDeer seen grooming a fox

A good friend of mine was telling me of a recent observation made on a cool frosty morning when she saw a Roe Deer licking and grooming a fox which was lying down in the grass.
Unfortunately both animals ran off when they tried to get a decent photo of the incident.

They've seen both the Roe deer and the fox separately on previous occasions but never consorting in this way.

Does anyone else know of similar stories?



anonymous spotter's picture

Deer & Fox

The first obvious thought is whether it really was a fox and not a fawn!
Having said that, if it really was a fox then the behaviour is very odd. Foxes smell strongly (even to humans), and you'd think this would trigger the "predator alert" button.
In captivity or similar situations, many animals will "adopt" and even suckle other species, but this is very largely due to the artificial nature of the situation.
The maternal instinct is very strong, and I suppose it is possible that a bereaved doe might turn her affections to anything that vaguely resembled her lost infant. Foxes are of course very wary themselves, and you'd think it would run off - but maybe it was hoping to escape detection by sitting very still?

Kluut's picture

Roe kids

Most roe kids are born from around now until mid June, so a kid seen a while ago would be unusual, but not impossible. Roe kids are also heavily spotted

tweeter's picture

thanks Kluut and Roy for your

thanks Kluut and Roy for your comments.
My friend remarked on the pointed nature of the ears which is what made her realise that the fawn she expected to see turned out to be a fox.
Unusual and unexpected behaviour indeed.


Kluut's picture

The whole scenario seems

The whole scenario seems odd.
Roe deer are extremely wary - they are noted for being difficult to stalk and I do not recall ever seeing one even though I have seen scores of each of the other common species (and foxes) over the years.
If the event was seen at some distance, which would be the most likely scenario, it could well be that the deer was grazing and the fox was actually down-wind of the deer and slightly nearer the observer, so that the deer knew nothing of the fox and just appeared to be licking the it.

bonzerooble's picture

lion adopts baby deer and baby monkey

I can't comment on this specific incident but I have seen u tube footage of a wild lioness who adopts and tenderly cares for an orphaned baby deer. The deer only lasts a few days before another lion kills it. Another lioness adopts a baby monkey whose mother it had killed. It appears to happen when a lioness has a strong unfulfilled mothering instint due to the loss of its own young through predation.


the naturalist man's picture

Deer lying down with the fox

I'm puzzled by this observation. I've been asking around and can not find anyone else who have heard of anything similar. I can only agree with some of the suggestions above, especially the concept of a failed mother. Thanks for this.

Graham Banwell

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