It's always exciting to spot deer when out for a country walk and it was fascinating to gain more insight and knowledge from Peter Watson’s well illustrated talk. Peter Watson is Director at The Deer Initiative and his talk to the Malvern Local Group last week gave us an insight into the UK's deer populations.
In England and Wales there are six kinds of deer roaming the countryside but only two of them are native species, the red and the roe. Both of these are rapidly increasing in numbers and range and they represent a remarkable conservation success story. In 1972 there were a few red deer and now there are about 40,000; the roe were wiped out by 1750 and now there are over 500,000.
Fallow deer were introduced to this country by the Normans and were protected in the hunting forests for centuries; many escaped during the two wars. Muntjac deer were introduced at Woburn Abbey by the Duke of Bedford and now there are over 200,000 roaming our woodlands. Chinese water and sika deer were also originally introduced on the big estates, escaped, and are growing in numbers in many places.
Why do we need to manage these deer? They are valuable in many ways, aesthetically, historically, as venison, and as trophies. However, they also impact on our environment in undesirable ways - eating trees, crops, native flora and bulbs, and causing problems for nesting birds. Some are infected with diseases like bluetongue, bovine TB and ticks. About 60,000 deer a year are involved in road traffic accidents.
The purpose of The Deer Initiative is to deliver a sustainable, well-managed deer population, in balance with its habitat. Groups as diverse as the Wildlife Trusts, National Trust, the RSPB and shooting organisations are involved in and support the Initiative. Management includes infrastructure support, population and impact monitoring, and collaborative culls. Interestingly, in some areas the number of traffic accidents reduces hugely after relatively small numbers of deer are culled. Fallow deer and muntjac are the main problems nationwide and need to be controlled.
Our next meeting is on December 6th at 7.30 pm at Malvern Evangelical Church. Jonathan Briggs will present “A Mistletoe Miscellany”. We look forward to seeing you there.
Alison, Malvern Local Group