The Red Deer (Cervus elaphus) is the largest Italian member of the Cervidae family. Adult males weight between the 150 and the 250 kilos, they are about 2m long and the height at withers is 110-140cm. Females weight between 90 and 130 kilos, reach the 1.80m of length and the height at withers is 100-115cm.
The winter coat in adults is thick and brown-grayish, opposed with the cream anal section. During the summer, the coat is reddish and the anal section less evident. Cubs under the 2 months of age are dark brown with white spots on the flanks. The males are provided with antlers, consisting of two pieces of bony tissue renovating during the year.
The original distribution of the deer in Italy involved the whole peninsula, but the lack of conservation strategies in the first half of the latest century led it to the brink of extinction because of the hunting pressure and the reduction of its ideal habitat.
Since the 1960s, the abandonment of the mountains by the rural populations, with the consequent reduction of wild grazing and high-mountain cultivations, the establishment of protected areas, and a greater sensitization also among the hunting groups have enabled the return of conditions suitable for the species. Today, starting from the alpine area, together with several reintroduction activities, the deer is repopulating the spaces from where it had been excluded. In Lazio, permanent populations of wild deer can be found only in Castel Porziano Reserve (RM), in Riserva della Duchessa and on the slope in Lazio of Abruzzo, Lazio e Molise National Park. To these, the specimens reintroduced on Simbruini Mountains must be added.
The red deer is a forest species easily adapting to various situations: from the sea level to over 2,000 meters of altitude, in the woodlands and in high-mountain pastures. Its ideal habitat consists of large forests of coppice woodlands with trees of different ages alternating with large clearings and characterized by an abundant presence of water, which is not only used to drink, but also for the mud baths, useful both to remove parasites and as solace during the hot summer. The red deer is one of the natural preys of the wolf. The cubs can also be preyed on by the fox, while the carcasses offer shelter to the omnivorous species like the bear and the wild boar and to necrophagous birds, like the Griffon Vulture.
The Wildlife Area was born in 2008 in loc. Prataglia in Cervara di Roma and houses a small group of Red Deer born in captivity. The red deer come from the wildlife area of Villavallelonga in Abruzzo National Park. From spring 2008 till today, 3 reproduction events have been registered. The ungulates are periodically visited to check their health. The wildlife area houses didactic visits during which radiotelemetric monitoring "demonstrations" illustrate the modalities with which the deer reintroduced in nature are monitored. The wildlife area is also used for repopulation activities, with the freeing of the new-born animals in nature. The aim is to promote the history and biology of the species, so that visitors and nature-lovers can easily discover and respect it.