East Anglia: Deer numbers are too high – experts

Should there be a deer cull?

Should there be a deer cull? - Credit: citizenside.com

EXPERTS have backed a massive deer cull that would see thousands of deer being shot each year in Suffolk.

A study by researchers from the University of East Anglia, claims only action on a large scale will keep numbers stable.

The article, published in the Journal of Wildlife Management, also suggests a venison market is created to make a cull ethically and economically acceptable.

Dr Paul Dolman, ecologist at the University of East Anglia and the article’s lead author, said expanding deer populations are putting pressure on biodiversity, ancient woodland and agriculture.

He added: “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.”

Dr Dolman said: “We are not killing something and then incinerating the carcass – what we are talking about is harvesting a wild animal to supply wild free-ranging venison for our tables for farm shops, for gastropubs.

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“What we are advocating isn’t removing deer from the countryside; what we are advocating is trying to get on top of the deer population explosion and try to control the problems that are being caused.”

In December last year Emma Goldberg, forestry and woodland specialist for Natural England, told a conference on ash dieback that the region’s deer needed to be managed to prevent them grazing on saplings that might be resistant to the toxic chalara fungus.

She said: “One of the key factors that I want to bang home with a sledgehammer is that our deer numbers are too high.

“Deer numbers will stop the regeneration of the disease-resistance ash and they will stop the regeneration of any other tree species and that is really important.”

A spokesman for the National Trust at Ickworth, Horringer, near Bury St Edmunds, said that although the report seemed “somewhat extreme”, a pro-active stance was needed to protect the countryside and the well-being of deer. He said that their cull, which annually runs from November to February, was carried out in a humane way by professional stalkers.

“When the population increases, we find that the food supply dwindles and the animals become weaker, more aggressive and can wander on to roads,” the spokesman added.

The heritage site has previously said it is looking into selling deer shot on its estate at an estate shop.

A spokeswoman for the RSPCA said that any cull must be carried out in a humane and controlled way and be supported by “strong science”.

She added: “Any decision to carry out a cull must be taken on a case by case basis based on the specific issues which impact a specific area. We don’t believe this should be rolled out in a uniform way across the whole country. It is certainly not a case of one size fits all.”

n In an online poll run on the EADT, there have been 145 votes for a deer cull, and 131 against.