Thursday, January 29, 2009

UK NEWS: Deer Populations Up, Need for Culling Up

The deer population in Britain has risen sharply in recent years and is now between 1.5 and 2 million.

The boom in numbers has lead to an increasing number of motorists being injured in collisions with the animals on the road.

They are also causing damage to the countryside.

Now conservationists say a cull is the only viable option.

Ashdown Forest, in East Sussex, which has several thousand Fallow Deer, about two dozen Roe Deer, large numbers of Muntjac and a small herd of Sika, has the highest number of deer-vehicle collisions in Britain.

In 2000 rangers attended 100 collisions involving deer compared to 266 in 2008, despite having fewer staff in 2008. The actual number of collisions is believed to be around 500 a year.

Dr Hew Prendergast, Clerk to the Conservators of Ashdown Forest, said: "The damage the deer are doing in the countryside and the numbers of casualties there are on the roads mean that something must be done.

No-one wants to blast deer to kingdom come for the hell of it but its better to have them killed humanely and sensitively than to let them die in agony on the side of a road."

He added: "The logistics of fencing off all the roads are impossible really to consider so a reduction of the population as a whole needs to be done."

Peter Watson, executive director of the Deer Initiative, said to keep the deer population static, 25 per cent needed to be culled every year.

With the deer population in Britain rising to up to two million, that requires around 350,000 deer to be culled.

Mr Watson said: "The impact of DVCs is far too high in relation to the number of deer. Deers have value but in some areas there are too many accidents and the balance is wrong."

Culling is not seen as the only answer but is hugely effective.

A culling programme in Herefordshire in 2005 reduced the number of DVC on the A49 from 50 to zero the following year.

Mr Watson added: "Sometimes it's the only way. There is no doubt that if you significantly reduce the deer population you can influence road traffic accidents."
DVC hotspots include Ashdown Forest, The New Forest, Thetford Forest in Norfolk and Cannock Chase, Staffs.

Trevor Banham, Chief Wildlife Ranger for the Forestry Commission East of England, said at Thetford Forest, which has a deer population of around 14,000, they cull 25 per cent every year to keep numbers down.

Forced to deal around 200 DVCs, he said there was no need for an extra cull.
He added: "We do have accidents but deer are wild animals. You can't fence them in."

Source: Telegraph

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