Deer: 50% cull 'necessary to protect countryside'

 
Stag Deer numbers in some areas appear stable only because thousands are being pushed into surrounding countryside

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Around half of the UK's growing deer population needs to be shot each year to stop devastation of woodlands and birdlife, a group of scientists says.

A study published in the Journal of Wildlife Management says this would keep numbers stable.

The deer population is currently estimated at around 1.5 million.

The researchers from the University of East Anglia suggest harvesting the animals for meat to make a cull ethically and economically acceptable.

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) commented that any cull must be carried out in a humane and controlled way and be supported by "strong science".

There are now more deer in the UK than at any time since the last Ice Age.

Start Quote

What we are advocating isn't removing deer from the countryside - what we are advocating is trying to get on top of the deer population explosion”

End Quote Dr Paul Dolman University of East Anglia

In the absence of natural predators deer populations are continuing to expand, threatening biodiversity and causing road traffic accidents and crop damage, say researchers.

Britain has a total of six deer species, four of which were introduced since Norman times. The most recent newcomer is the Chinese water deer, which became established in the wild in the 1920s.

Dr Paul Dolman, ecologist at the University of East Anglia and lead author, said: "We know deer are eating out the... vegetation of important woodlands, including ancient woodlands.

"Deer are implicated as the major cause of unfavourable conditions in terms of woodland structure and regeneration.

"There is evidence that deer reduce the number of woodland birds - especially some of our much loved migrant birds species like Blackcap and Nightingale, and resident species like Willow Tit. We have a problem."

Failing strategy

Dr Dolman led a census of roe and muntjac deer populations across 234 sq km (90 sq miles) of woods and heathland in Breckland, East Anglia.

The researchers drove more than 1,140 miles at night using thermal imaging cameras to spot deer and provide an accurate estimate of their true numbers.

The results indicate that existing management strategies are failing. Although deer numbers appeared stable in the area, this was only because thousands of the animals were being pushed out into the surrounding countryside each year.

The new research suggested that only by killing 50% to 60% of deer can their numbers be kept under reasonable control.

Such a cull would be on a far greater scale than the 20% to 30% rates recommended previously.

With total deer numbers conservatively estimated at about 1.5 million, it could result in more than 750,000 animals being shot every year.

In a statement, the RSPCA said it was "opposed in principle to the killing or taking of all wild animals unless there is strong science to support it, or evidence that alternatives are not appropriate.

"Even if a cull is supported by science, it is very important that it is carried out in a humane and controlled way.

"Any decision to carry out a cull must be taken on a case by case basis based on the specific issues which impact a specific area. We don't believe this should be rolled out in a uniform way across the whole country. It is certainly not a case of one size fits all."

The Deer Initiative (DI), which is dedicated to a sustainable, managed deer population in England and Wales, has carried out research into how a cull might be carried out. They say that data on deer numbers and those culled need to be continually reviewed to assess whether culling levels need to be adjusted.

But its says that one off, heavy culls, followed by little or no culling, never achieve a sustained drop in numbers. Reduction culls need to be substantial and usually need to run over a number of years to be effective. They must then be consolidated by following with a realistic maintenance cull.

Deer harvest

Dr Dolman said: "We are not killing something and then incinerating the carcass - what we are talking about is harvesting a wild animal to supply wild free-ranging venison for our tables - for farm shops, for gastro pubs.

Trevor Banham of the Forestry Commission: "Numbers have got out of hand"

"What we are advocating isn't removing deer from the countryside - what we are advocating is trying to get on top of the deer population explosion and try to control the problems that are being caused.

"And in a way, [venison] provides a sustainable food source where you know where it comes from, you know it is ethically sourced, you know it is safe to eat, and that puts food on people's tables. As much as I love deer, to be a meat eater but then to object to the culling and harvesting of deer seems to be inconsistent."

Previous culling estimates have been lower. The Deer Initiative had previously said that maintaining a static population will require a cull of at least 20% of the population for the larger species (red, fallow, sika), and a cull of around 30% of the population for roe, muntjac and Chinese water deer.

Peter Watson, director of the DI, commented: "The DI welcomes any research that gives us a better understanding of wild deer populations and their impacts.

"We were happy to support this work by UEA and will look at the evidence to see how it should affect our Best Practice Guidance. Our aim is promote a sustainable wild deer population that is in balance with the habitat. It is for local landowners to examine the evidence and decide how best to respond to the UAE report."

But he added that this was a single study on two species (out of six) that could not be extrapolated to the whole of the UK, therefore suggesting a cull of 750,000 was not valid. He also said deer had to be managed at a landscape-scale that reflected the ecology of the deer and not man made ownership boundaries.

 

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  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 1038.

    At last a public statement from an eminent group of scientists not only acknowledging a gross overpopulation of deer in our countryside but recommending dramatic control measures to redress the balance. Results of their research must naturally be extrapolated to the gross overpopulation of predators, related to the impoverishment of our birdlife, with the same rational as to remedial action.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 1037.

    lets get some facts straight,
    1.deer eat the bark off young,not mature trees.
    2.management is needed to maintain healthy herds(hence deerstalkers)
    3.any cull would be done by skilled marksmen,with the correct equipment
    4.neutering/spaying would be far more costly & ultimately lead to eradication of herds/species
    5.research has been done in one area only
    6.it has nothing to do with politics

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 1036.

    1003. miklewal - "So these damn deer purposely run into cars - nothing to do with cars travelling too fast, or drivers not looking where they are going!"

    That's exactly right! A stag in season will often attack vehicles travelling on a road through their territory as they perceive them as competition. I've had it happen to me when travelling on a motorbike at 60MPH. I was lucky to not be killed.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 1035.

    I am only 16 years of age and think that this treatment that people are carrying out on deers is cruel and disgusting, would we use this sort of treatment on humans ? I don't think so ? For those who'll say they are just trying to protect other species you're doing more harm than good! We just don't go wiping out humans in over populated areas! Deers do not harm anyone and are gentle creatures!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 1034.

    I am lucky enough to own a 50 acre ancient woodland on Dartmoor. It is full of deer, and they don't "destroy" anything. Just another academic trying to make a name for themselves, helped by the BBC latching onto anything and everything that pops up. We humans concrete over everything and flush the world with chemicals - but look at those destructive deer!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 1033.

    Providing the killed deers are used as food, and carefully managed, this could be a sustainable source of meat for those who like to eat animals.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 1032.

    Perhaps the state can sell them to Findus

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 1031.

    the report suggests what is already being done,basic wildlife management.there would be a reasonable assumption that in some areas the population needs to be controlled more vigorously,ie areas of young woodland and forest as the bark is food to the deer.as always a knee jerk reaction from animal rights,and as usual not all the facts given in the report.any cull would be by trained marksmen

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 1030.

    An update on an earlier post:

    We have a problem with too many deer, and the answer seems to be to have a cull.

    We have a problem with badgers and spreading disease, and the answer seems to be to have a cull.

    We have a problem with too many immigrants and EU benefit claimants? What shall we do?

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 1029.

    Bambiburgers, yummy! Seriously though, living in the country we see deer almost every day and they are causing damage particularly to trees, by eating the bark. A cull would be advisable and the meat is clean and low fat. We are also infested with rabbits so lets have Thumperburgers on the menu too.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 1028.

    1014/1002
    "Please keep this feed focused on the discussion in hand".
    "250% cull on Great Spotted Woodpeckers"
    "CULL HUMANS!!!!! We are the biggest blight on this planet"
    "Where will it end? The human race must be slashed by billions"

    Absolutely old chap, fully agree, lets stay on subject, the culling of deer, for or against, not woodpeckers or humans.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 1027.

    Whatever the outcome this should not be a green light for a bunch of yahoo sicko's to blast everything in sight for the 'fun' of it.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 1026.

    Too many humans messing things up so we have to go out and kill a load of other things. Britain needs fewer people more than it needs fewer deer and whilst culling humans is obviously unacceptable the sheer official stubborness in refusing to even acknowledge that the problem exists is ridiculous.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 1025.

    Just to clarify on David's comment, It is perfectly legal to hunt deer in the UK. As long as done in the correct seasons, with land owners permission and you use the correct caliber of rifle (.243 is the minimum) the problem is to many people are un educated in this matter and don't see deer as food. however these same people buy have no issue in eating farmed animals which I don't understand.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 1024.

    @nagivatorjan
    nope, originally from rural Surrey, now living in rural north yorkshire, cycling 3 miles to and from work each day.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 1023.

    1020 Fulham4Life
    Sorry mate, but I expect you live in a major conurbation, rather than out in the sticks like some of us. We don't have a cheap and frequent bus or train service - just our cars to get to work. We don't like killing deer either, we just want safe roads and good meat!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 1022.

    @1018, Just kidding Angel, it does not seem terribly scientific does it and mistakes can and do happen. I spend some time in the dark hours thru the week travelling the local highways and daylight hours in the countryside at weekend, there is clearly and obviously a huge amount more of deer in the countryside (and cities) than there was 10 years ago but your point is valid.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 1021.

    Processed venison meat anyone ... ?!?

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 1020.

    @nagivatorjan
    If only Deer followed the 'green cross code' I mean what a liberty that a Deer needed to cross a 5 metre strip of tarmac imposed upon it's natural habitiat.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 1019.

    Children, teenages and adults abuse our countryside so why not a

 

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