After many newspapers and online sources reported that between 50 and 60 per cent of the UK’s deer population must be culled, the head researcher behind the study, Dr Paul Dolman, has revealed that his findings were misrepresented.
Speaking to the Observer, Dr Dolman said: “I didn’t say that. I just used those figures as hypothetical examples. In fact, we don’t know how many deer there are in this country and that is the real problem that I was trying to get over.
“We cannot manage deer or control the damage they do until we get a proper estimate of their numbers. That is the real thrust of our research.
“We have found that our knowledge of deer population densities is much poorer than we previously thought.”
Dr Dolman’s research article, ‘Achieving landscape-scale deer management for biodiversity conservation: The need to consider sources and sinks’, was based on a 234 kilometre-squared area in East Anglia, and he acknowledges the vast land and land management differences across the UK.
“Objectives can differ between estates and land managers. For example, an estate that prioritises income from stalking will have a different approach to one that manages its land for wood fuel production.”
He added that the research shows there are no completely reliable counting methods for deer, meaning that accurate cull targets cannot be planned.
Based at the University of East Anglia, Dr Dolman primarily focused his report on roe and muntjac deer on the Norfolk-Suffolk border, and did not intend for the project to cover the UK-wide variations in deer numbers and land use