From: Liz Shaw, ARKive.org , More from this Affiliate
Published March 7, 2013 12:40 PM

Deer Cull Necessary To Protect UK Countryside

Around half of the United Kingdom's deer population needs to be shot each year to prevent damage to woodlands and other wildlife, according to a group of scientists.

The scientists carried out a census of roe deer and muntjac deer populations across 234 square kilometres of woodland and heathland in East Anglia in the UK, and the results suggest that current management strategies for deer are failing. Although deer numbers in the area appeared stable, it was only because thousands of individuals were being pushed out into the surrounding countryside.

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The study indicated that a cull of 50 to 60% of the deer would be necessary to keep their populations under control — much higher than the 20 to 30% that had previously been recommended.

Deer damage

There are six deer species in the UK, of which four are introduced. The current UK deer population is thought to stand at around 1.5 million, meaning there are more deer in the country now than at any time since the last Ice Age.

In the absence of natural predators, deer populations are continuing to expand and are believed to be damaging woodlands, as well as causing road traffic accidents and damage to crops.

According to Dr Paul Dolman, an ecologist at the University of East Anglia and one of the authors of the study, "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 bird species like blackcap and nightingale, and resident species like willow tit. We have a problem."

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