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Cull one million deer a year to stop them from devastating woodland, wildflowers and crops, say experts
A cull is necessary to keep a population explosion under control
Without it, they will continue to devastate woodland, wildflowers and crops
02:02 GMT, 7 March 2013
02:55 GMT, 7 March 2013
We should stop seeing wild deer as cuddly ‘Bambis’ and cull half their number to stop further damage to the countryside, experts said yesterday.
Shooting almost a million animals every year using trained hunters is necessary to keep a population explosion under control, they warned.
Without it, the animals would continue to devastate woodland, wildflowers and crops, cause road deaths and stray into urban areas.
Controversial: We should stop seeing wild deer as cuddly 'Bambis' and cull half their number to stop further damage to the countryside, experts said yesterday
Shooting by trained and licensed hunters is the only practical way to keep their populations in check, according to Dr Paul Dolman, from the University of East Anglia.
And he called on big landowners such as the National Trust, Wildlife Commission and Forestry Commission to organise mass culls.
‘We need to shift public perception that they are wonderful, lovely animals, cuddly and sweet like Bambi’ he said.
‘Of course, anyone coming across a deer fawn will think it a wonderful occurrence, but at the same time we shouldn’t be obliquely romatic about them.
‘There is a major problem with their numbers and it needs to be managed properly.
‘Woodlands will be completely destroyed if deer populations continue to grow.
‘Each landowner should take the initiative to cull deer on their land, and DEFRA can help co-ordinate culls in the area.’
However Dr Dolman said he did not feel it was necessary for a national directive controlling deer populations, at this stage.
Protection: Shooting almost a million animals every year using trained hunters is necessary to keep a population explosion under control, they warned
Shooting by trained and licensed hunters is the only practical way to keep their populations in check, he said.
Although they were kept on private land belonging to the nobility, wild deer were virtually unknown in England for 1,000 years until their re-introduction by the Victorians.
Today, there are more deer in the UK than at any time since the ice age. Although it has been suggested that they could number more than 1.5 million, no-one knows for certain how many there are.
Each year more than 14,000 vehicles are severely damaged and about 450 people injured or killed on British roads as a result of collisions with deer.
Deer strip woodland of wild flowers, brambles and shrubs, and disturb the ecology to the point that native birds are lost. The fact that nightingales are now so rare is largely blamed on deer.
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.
Expanding areas of woodland surrounded by farms, together with the lack of natural predators, have provided perfect conditions in which deer can flourish.
Like foxes, deer are now starting to feel at home in urban environments, said Dr Dolman.
‘Studies have been done in Sheffield that show roe deer living in cemeteries,’ he said.
‘Muntjac deer will move into private gardens and allotments. Fallow deer are wide ranging – they live in woodland but come in to feed. There are housing estates in London where they’ve been known to graze on lawns in the evening.
‘There have been no accidents yet but it’s only a matter of time. These are large animals with sharp antlers. If you had one cornered in a school playing field, it could be nasty.’
Dr Dolman led the first full-scale census of roe and muntjac deer populations across 234 square kilometres (145 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, published in the Journal of Wildlife Management, indicate that existing management strategies are failing.
At a conservative estimate, there are
1.5million deer in Britain. Research by the university suggested that
they can only be kept under control by raising the cull rate from 20 per
cent to 50 or 60 per cent.
More than 750,000 to a million
animals could be shot every year in culls carried out by landowners such
as the National Trust, the Wildlife Commission and the Forestry
Commission, and organised by the Government, it said. Wild deer were
re-introduced by the Victorians after a 1,000-year gap.