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Minsmere: RSPB explains culling of its red deer

PUBLISHED: 12:52 14 January 2014

Red deer at Minsmere.

Red deer at Minsmere.

A wildlife conservation charity has explained the culling of 250 red deer at a nature reserve as a “necessary way of maintaining the wonderful landscape” of the Suffolk coast.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) said the herd at Minsmere had increased greatly in recent years and was having an adverse impact on the habitats of other wildlife.

“In order to protect these iconic habitats such as the heath and reed beds at Minsmere, the RSPB needs to take action to reduce the current populations of deer,” said a spokesman for the charity.

“The decision to control deer was not taken lightly.”

A visitor to the site, however, has criticised the move, which he feels is at odds with the objectives of the UK’s largest nature conservation charity.

Wildlife enthusiast Duncan Wright, a frequent visitor to Minsmere, said that he could acknowledge the need to cull but felt it had been “poorly handled” by the RSPB.

The 54-year-old Leiston man, who renounced his membership to the charity after he learned about the magnitude of the cull, suggests it should have been carried out more regularly but on a smaller scale and with greater transparency.

“It seems in my view immensely hypocritical for an organisation purporting to have nature conservation as its core remit to even consider this, let alone actively sanction it,” he said. Mr Wright also claims to have discovered three deer carcasses on a public lane accessing the reserve, which he felt most nature lovers would find distressing and unnecessary.

The RSPB explained that deer control is a legal and widely undertaken part of countryside management, which it had determined to be the “only remaining option to 
safeguard the integrity of the habitat”.

Although the charity said it would continue to maintain red deer at the reserve, it explained that with no predators to control the population naturally, it was important to “strike a balance” so that the other habitats were also protected.

“The RSPB wants to continue to attract visitors to the Suffolk coast so that future generations continue to be inspired by their natural surroundings,” a spokesman for the charity said.

“This can only be achieved if we manage the special habitats here so that the species like bitterns, otters and marsh harriers can thrive.”

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