What is the Average Lifespan of a Deer?

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
Our Associate portal can be found here


Nature dictates that every living organism has to die. While the length of life in which the said organism is said to live is the lifespan, the deer have an average lifespan of 10-12 years. 

This however depends on a handful of factors; external and internal. Internal factors may include infant mortality, while the external factors are aspects such as predator relationship. It is rare to hear of a deer dying of old age, but it is not impossible. In detail, these factors are explained below.

Factors that Influence a Deer’s Lifespan

Hunting Pressure

They are native animals in most of their inhibiting regions, and they spread across the globe. Each geographical region has unique hunting approaches taken by the hunters; some have extreme hunting pressure while others no pressure at all. It is logical to assume that areas with minimal hunting pressure are where a deer will survive and live longer. Some regions are very aggressive in the hunting techniques they use, resulting in a higher yield.


The physical structure between a male and a female is also a player in a deer’s lifespan. A buck, which is a male deer, is more muscular than the doe. The choice of either taking down a buck or doe lies with the hunter; with research showing that the bucks are most preferred over the does. This is most especially among the trophy hunters since females do not go antlers; at least the majority.

Does are usually hunted first in most regions since they provide more meat and are more vulnerable than their opposite sex. At 3-4 years a doe is fully matured and almost reaching its peak. A deer will most likely stand out from its peers, giving a perfect target to the hunter.

On the other hand, Bucks are energetic animals that love roaming, especially during the mating season. Most of them only live up to their third year; the superior genes bucks are lucky and might survive up to ten years. A fully grown deer stands out from its species by having a muscular body and a fantastic antler. The beautiful antler is what makes it a trophy target to most hunters; predators are only interested in meat.

Predator and Prey Relationship

It is natural that it has to feed, and eventually will be fed on by other creatures; this is the cycle of life. Deer are herbivorous creatures; they solely rely on green vegetation for nutrients and vitamins. Well, a few turn to meat. Check out our article on ‘Does Deer Eat Meat to find out why. 

Adequate food and water should contribute to a deer’s long life.

However, the number of predators in a given region is a significant factor that  dictates the number of deer, and thus their lifespan  They are less likely to survive past the average lifespan in a heavily infested predator area.


Most fawns are born between either late summer or early spring, given that a deer’s gestation period is between 200-260 days, and the mating season runs from October to December. This season sees a tremendous increase in the number of deer in the wild. 

However, this gradually decreases due to external factors, predators and hunters being a significant concern.

The reduction in numbers does not stop there; some deer still die of starvation and diseases. They are lucky enough to see the whole year continue with reproduction as the seasons begin their cycle once again.

Habitat Destruction

Proper shelter and cover is a necessity for survival. A deer is more likely to survive longer if it has a reliable shelter to protect it from harsh weather conditions, predators, and even hunters. Fawns will most likely die young if they do not have a safe and dependable spot to lay low. 

The habitat should be close to sufficient food and water; this will reduce movement making it less vulnerable to attacks. 

Natural calamities and human activity have seen the destruction of animals’ natural habitats, and the deer are not spared. Their disposal makes them exposed to harsh weather conditions, predators, and natural calamities. As a result, they may not survive for a longer time, up to and past their average lifespan.

Comparing the Life Expectancy of Three Deer Species in Captivity and Free Ranging

Red Deer

Its scientific name is Cervus elaphus and is the largest member of the deer family. It inhabits most of Europe and has been introduced to other regions. 

This species is very comfortable in captivity and can live up to twenty years. In the wild, its average lifespan is around 10-13 years, depending on the predator pressure in its region. While in captivity, the animal exempts itself from threatening predators and harsh living conditions, extending its length of life.

Roe Deer

This animal is also a member of the deer family; scientifically, it goes by Caprelos capreolus. The male ones go by roebucks. Compared to other members of its family, it is relatively small and adapts well to low temperatures. This animal is widespread across Europe.

The average lifespan of a roe deer in the wild is ten years; in captivity, it is shorter. Roe deer are adventurous and are very comfortable in regions where there are unrestricted movements. The roebuck is exceptionally territorial, and this means that it is bound to pick conflicts with its cage mates.


Commonly known as a Caribou in North America, its scientific name is Rangifer Tarandus and is also a member of the deer family. Below it lies 14 subspecies, two of which are extinct. It is very comfortable in low temperatures; in fact, this species becomes stressed at high temperatures.

The reindeer domestication is common in the northern regions. The main reasons for domestication include food, items of clothing, and transport. Females tend to have a longer lifespan than males, regardless of whether in the wild or in captivity. The female reindeer’s average lifespan is about 17 years in captivity; the males are four years less.

Why There is a Difference in Their Lifespans

Struggle for life

The relationship between an animal and its predators strongly determines the lifespan of an animal. When it comes to the deer family, predator killing is a primary concern.

For a deer in captivity, predators are least of their concerns, increasing their lifespan. However, for a free raging deer, running into a predator or a hunter is very high. The length of survival in the woods depends on the survival skills of the said animal.

You may expect that all deer species in captivity extend their life expectancy. However, some deer species are not comfortable in confined environments. The doe deer is a good example, and this species requires the ‘wild action’ of the forest to survive longer.

Species like the red deer and reindeer have equal or greater lifespans than their relatives in the wild. A captive roe deer has a shorter lifespan in captivity than in the wild.


A reliable food supply significantly contributes to an animal having a longer lifespan. Unlike animals in the wild, captured species are provided for by their capturers with adequate and quality foods. The hustle of competing with its relatives and other game for food in the wild is past tense.

However, a captive deer is limited to the diet it receives, unlike the rest who have the freedom to choose their food. If the diet selection does not please this animal, expect a reduction in the life expectancy. 

The diet affects not only its lifespan but also its behavior. The captured may tend to be unusually violent or noisy.

Roe deer prefer hunting their food, and this makes them less comfortable in enclosed estates.


It is without a doubt that exercise is paramount in any organism. Captive animals tend to age faster than free ranging animals; the space to roam is limited. In the wild deer move not more than 10 miles away from their home range. However, when captured, the roaming diameter is much less than when free in the forest.

The captured species do age faster, but also live longer. Aged animals prefer special care; they are less energetic than they used to be. When caught, the old animal receives regular food and responsibility, which would not be available if in the wild.

Accessories for Hunting Fanatics

[amalinkspro_table id=”2794″ aff-id=”” new-window=”on” nofollow=”on” addtocart=”on” /]


The primary goal of this question is to give a general age quote of the deer you have previously hunted. Deer living past the five-year bracket have a higher status in comparison with other deer, and most don’t make it past 12 years due to a number of factors as discussed above.

Amazon and the Amazon logo are trademarks of Amazon.com, Inc, or its affiliates.

Scroll to Top