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July 2003
Nottinghamshire deer - History
Deer at dusk in Wollaton Park
Deer at dusk in Wollaton Park
Deer are not only part of the British heritage but also that of Nottinghamshire and its folk lore.

Dennis Ashcroft, a deer enthusiast, tells us more...
Notts Deer Survey:
History of deer

Why do the survey?

Results of survey

Further features:
Deer Spotters Guide
Deer UK
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Deer are not only part of the British heritage but also that of Nottinghamshire and it's folk lore, especially those of Robin Hood which it is said it was the poaching of the deer that led him to be declared as an outlaw.

Historically the main area of the Shire of Nottingham where deer would be found in abundance was what was then the original extensive area of Sherwood Forest.

Protected by ancient laws and the wide spread of small populated areas would of afforded the deer a reasonable quality of life, without the need to migrate from their chosen area of what they believed to be a safe haven.

Muntjac Deer
Muntjac Deer

Unfortunately times changed and areas were divided into Estates most of who’s aims were to be a viable commercial enterprise. The villages became small towns, populations exploded all resulting in a need for change.

Shrinking of Sherwood Forest
Timber was extracted from the forest to be used for buildings and methods of transport.

Fossil fuel in the form of coal was discovered causing an influx of people who required housing. Slowly other areas of the forest and countryside were cleared for housing. The local timber especially Oak was ideal for tunnel supports, so a large number of mature trees where felled, leaving vast numbers of voids with in the ever dwindling forest. The forest, which was originally, a haven for wildlife including deer.

As the forest depleted and came down around them the deer were forced to relocate to other parts of the forest. As they were emigrating they were more and more exposed to open land and indeed more and more explotatation of humans especially poachers.

Their habitat indeed there home was rapidly disappearing. This in turn would inevitably lead to the poor health/condition of the deer and ultimately could result in death.

Red Deer
Red Deer

A savior for the deer in a way came in the establishment of privately owned estates. Large areas were fenced off affording refuges for the deer.

Management plans
Management plans were introduced, this should have been for the welfare of the deer and to ensure that the habitat was suitable for them, and indeed the numbers were suitable for the area, in other words sustainability.

Unfortunately there was an ulterior motive! The estate owner wanted the deer for sport, meat and indeed rightly or wrongly as a resource. In other words a form of financial income. In return the deer would in a sense have been afforded a reasonable chance of continuity and survival.

Population explosion

The human population began to continued to expand, leading to the need for houses, this along side of the introduction of motor vehicles and railways, came the ever expanding road and rail system.

Once again the relatively security afforded to the deer was taken away. They became vulnerable to poaching and general exploitation from humans. Especially, as the function of the estates, became focused, towards the needs of humans, but most importantly financial income.

Slowly but surely this reduced the habitat left to the wild herds which where forced to migrate to other areas taken up home where and when they could.

The wild deer being reasonable adaptable appears to have faired well. Unfortunately another corner was about to be rounded off!

At the demise of some estates most of them converted towards recreational use.

Once again the relatively security afforded to the deer was taken away. They became vulnerable to poaching, indeed generally to human exploitation mainly for the need of financial income.

Roads, cars, housing
Access roads, car parking, industrial estates and recreational needs took precedence, resulting in more and more habitat being reduced and indeed disappearing altogether.

Roe Deer
Roe Deer

Again deer became a low priority and indeed in some cases they did not have a place in the overall management plans, despite the fact they are/were, within their own right, a great asset, attraction and resource.

The Forestry Commission
The exception to this was to a point the Forestry Commission, who constantly managed woodland/forestry areas for timber and in this way was providing habitat, which in some
Ways could be described as affording a sanctuary for the deer.

But! And it is a big but, due to deer being blamed or accused of/for causing damage to the trees especially within new plantations, and the fact the Commission started to utilize some of their plantations for recreational use, the deer had to be controlled in other words managed. This was /is in many ways a superb stratergy.for the sake of the deer.

Thankfully and with all praise to them the Forestry Commission made extensive management plans tried to reach a balance between damage control/crop protection and the needs and welfare of the deer.

Fallow Deer
Fallow Deer

Never the less some of the deer were forced to travel out of area’s to take up sanctuary or establish themselves where ever they could, indeed in some circumstances, adapt to human interference and ways.

Indegenous species
In Nottinghamshire the indigenous species of deer are historically Red (Cervus elaphus) Fallow (Dama dama) and indeed Roe (Capreolus capreolus), despite the latter being only more noticeable according to records not until the 1980’s.

It must also be pointed out that Roe are as well as Red the Indigenous species of the British Isle’s, which leads to a believe they have been present in and around Nottinghamshire for a long, long time.

During the time of this project it has been ascertained that there are four species of deer currently wild within Nottinghamshire. They are:

  • Red (Cervus elaphus)
  • Fallow (Dama dama)
  • Roe (Capreolus capreolus)
  • Muntjac (Muntiacus)

Read about why it is essential that we track the Notts deer population >>

Become a deer spotter. Use our deer spotters guide >>
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