Around 50% of Britain’s deer population needs to be culled each year to ‘protect the countryside’, according to a study published in the Journal of Wildlife Management.
With an estimated deer population of 1.5 million in the UK that could mean an annual cull of 750,000 to prevent the “hyper-herbivory” that is destroying the nation’s woodlands.
Ecologist at the University of East Anglia, and lead author, Dr Paul Dolman, said: “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.
“There is evidence that deer reduce the number of woodland birds – especially some of our much loved migrant birds species like Blackcap and Nightingale, and resident species like Willow Tip. We have a problem.”
He continued: “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.”
The study estimated deer density over 90 square miles of forested land in Breckland, East Anglia.
Sporting Rifle‘s editor-in-chief, Peter Carr, believes the cull should be properly managed to stabilise Britain’s deer population.
He said: “Modern farming and forestry has suited the UK deer population which has expanded in recent years.
“However, both professional and amateur deer stalkers should be encouraged to undertake the culling of our deer.
“I would not like to see our six UK deer species relegated to the rank of vermin.”
The RSPCA said it was “opposed in principle to the killing or taking of all wild animals unless there is strong science to support it, or evidence that alternatives are not appropriate.
“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.”