Currently it is estimated that there are over 2,000,000+ wild deer in the UK. Nationwide over 350,000 are culled each year. Despite this the population of deer is growing due to the lack of natural predators. The growing population is ever on the move searching for food and this is causing problems for land owners in terms of damage to fences, crops, woodlands and plants costing millions of pounds every year.
Some of the issues are not so obvious. A farmer in Sussex had £45,000 of damage caused to his combine harvester by running over deer hiding in the crops. A farmer in East Sussex had over £200,000 worth of crop damage caused by deer bedding down in his fields and simply crushing his crop.
Another serious issue not to be underestimated is the level of collisions between car drivers and deer. In the UK the second biggest killer of deer after disease, is road traffic accidents. Whilst it might seem the easy option to install deer proof fencing around farm crops and sensitive areas, the end result is more deer forced on to roads at night and in the early hours of the morning in order for them to migrate to better food producing areas. The unchecked growth of the herd will cause shortages which make the deer roam wider in search of food. The normally secretive and timid animals will venture out onto roads and into populated areas if the food supply in their range is dwindling.
Our clients are not limited to owners of large areas of land and commercial farmers. Some clients have small paddocks where they keep horses and deer are eating all the food intended for the livestock. Several clients have issues with deer in their back gardens causing damage to planted areas lawns and fencing. Whilst working in small areas is not always possible, it is often managed by contacting the surrounding land owners and forming a group strategy.
Deer Control for Conservation
Aside from the material damage and financial loss caused by deer, there is also the conservation issue. Deer cause extensive damage to woodlands and this can impact on other species of woodland animal. As an example of how important it is to control deer population growth, in 2013 the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds had to cull over 1000 deer to reduce damage to woodlands and protect rare bird species.
Conservation by population control is very significant to the deer population. With no natural predators the old, sick and week animals are not being removed from the herds. It is perhaps alarming to understand that deer will not actually die of old age related issues as we understand them, deer will simply wear down their teeth to a point where they can no longer eat and then they will starve to death. In the natural order of things the week animals would be removed by predators but there are no more wolves in the UK.
Allowing such animals to stay in the herds will weaken the blood line and ultimately lead to a situation where disease can become established in weakened animals and then transferred to healthy animals. This can cause great suffering in the herd. By culling the older weaker animals and preserving the prime breeding stock, it is possible to both control the herd size and the health of the herd.
Whilst the culling of such a beautiful animal is always an emotive subject, the works of groups like D.A.G.S.E. must be seen in the wider context of conservation. Keeping herds down to sensible sizes will reduce the impact on the land, reduce migration related accidents and maintain the health & welfare of this most magnificent beast.
D.A.G.S.E. is working hard with The Deer Initiative to manage the deer population in South East England. Safety & the welfare of the animal are our primary concern, which is why we strongly advocate a professional approach and a friendly and open attitude.