Wednesday, February 28, 2007


INCREASING deer populations in East Anglia mean it is inevitable there will be more road accidents involving the creatures, experts have warned.

The comments were made in the wake of an horrific crash on the A14 in Suffolk on Monday, in which a father and daughter were killed after swerving to avoid a dead deer in the road.

Ten thousand vehicle-deer collisions are reported in eastern England each year and Suffolk/Norfolk has the third highest rate of this kind of accident in the country.

Nationally, the wild deer population is estimated at 1.2 million and growing. In eastern England the number is thought to be about 75,000.

David Hooton, regional liaison officer for the Deer Initiative, which gives advice to landowners on sustainable management of wild deer populations, said there were now six different species of deer in the wild in this region.

They included red, roe, fallow, muntjac, sika and Chinese water deer, the more exotic ones having escaped from private collections and bred successfully in the wild.

A red deer - the biggest species in the wild - is thought to have been involved in Monday's fatal accident.

Mr Hooton said changed living patterns which saw many more vehicles on the roads at night accounted for part of the increase in collisions with deer.

However, recent mild winters had helped breeding success and the change to autumn sowing of cereal crops meant there was plenty of food available in the winter months.

“While foxes might pick up a few of the smaller species, deer no longer have a natural predator in this country and populations are likely to continue to rise until they get to the point where there is not enough food to see them through the winters,” Mr Hooton said.

The Deer Initiative gave advice to landowners over the culling of deer populations to try to protect crops, new tree plantations and ancient woodlands.

But many landowners were not culling at a high enough level to “keep the lid” on populations.

“We all want to see deer in the countryside because they are beautiful, aesthetic creatures but populations have to be managed properly in order to restrict damage to crops and trees,” Mr Hooton said.

The Deer Initiative is funded by the Forestry Commission and Natural England.