Wild deer population report

Thursday 7th March 2013

Roe deer cpt Alan WrightRoe deer cpt Alan wright

Today the University of East Anglia publishes research showing that present deer management efforts in Breckland are not enough to stop populations spreading out of control.

Published in The Journal of Wildlife Management, the University of East Anglia says that their new research highlights how “current approaches to deer management are failing to control a serious and growing problem.”

The Wildlife Trusts were not involved in this research.  The culling of wild animals is regarded by The Wildlife Trusts as a last resort measure to deal with serious conservation management problems.

The Wildlife Trusts are members of the Deer Initiative Partnership, which aims to achieve and maintain a sustainable and healthy population of wild deer in England and Wales.  It is widely accepted that deer are more abundant and widespread now than at any time in the past 1,000 years, and that deer are causing significant damage to woodland habitats and the species that rely on them.  With a lack of natural predators in the UK, the role of human control becomes more important, particularly when the conservation status of native wildlife is threatened. 

The Wildlife Trusts recognise that ecosystem management is highly complex and can sometimes require the careful control of certain species to achieve the best long-term outcome for the management of habitats, wildlife and agricultural livelihoods.  We believe that the key to successful deer management is collaborative action at a landscape scale, based on a robust evidence base taking into account the local deer population dynamics and ecology, and following the Deer Initiative’s Best Practice Guidance. 

We only support the culling of wild animals when a strong scientific case has been made for the impacts and where it would be effective and humane:

• Decisions to cull any animal on conservation grounds should be based on the ecological impact of the species concerned, ie its effects on species of conservation importance and/or habitats
• To proceed there should be a convincing case that culling the animal concerned will address the management problem that has been identified and that killing is the only practical mechanism that would achieve this
• Any proposal to undertake such a programme should be adequately researched and justified on paper, be for a limited time scale and have a monitoring mechanism built in.  The decision to continue a further phase should be based on the assessment of the effectiveness and continued relevance of the previous phase
• Methods of regulating the population by other means eg by habitat manipulation, altering food supplies, adjusting natural predation levels etc to achieve a self regulating system should be frequently reviewed as the preferred long-term solution

The Deer Initiative

The Deer Initiative is a broad partnership of statutory, voluntary and private interests dedicated to "ensuring the delivery of a sustainable, well-managed wild deer population in England and Wales". Their Best Practice Guidance is here.   

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