Good evening and welcome to The British Deer Society

Why manage deer?

Why manage deer?

Truly 'wild habitats' no longer exist in Britain. We use the countryside to produce food crops, graze animals, grow trees and for a wide range of leisure activities. We build roads through the countryside to link towns and cities and our needs generally take precedence over those of deer and other wildlife.

Animals have learned to adapt to the areas left to them and to utilise parks and gardens as the natural countryside dwindles. The urban fox is well known, but the muntjac, our smallest deer, is almost as common in some urban areas.

Protecting deer and the countryside

It is important to manage the deer population to ensure their welfare, to protect them from starvation due to overgrazing and from death and injury in road traffic accidents (the National Deer-Vehicle Collisions Project estimates that there are between 42,000 and 74,000 accidents involving deer across the country each year). It is equally important to prevent deer from causing unacceptable damage to crops and trees and to protect other creatures sharing their habitat from the results of overgrazing.

Although an accurate assessment is difficult, the UK deer population is thought to be up to 2m*, more than at any time since the last ice age. Six deer species live in the wild in Britain. Two, red and roe deer, are indigenous (native). Fallow deer were introduced by the Phoenicians or the Romans, while sika, muntjac and Chinese water deer were all introduced in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and it is escapees from deer parks that now populate the British countryside. The species differ in their geographical distribution, numbers, growth rate, behaviour and environmental impact.

Sustainable management

In the absence of a natural predator, sustainable management of deer usually means that they have to be 'culled'. Already, an estimated 350,000* deer are culled in the UK every year. Despite this, and the high number killed in road accidents, the population continues to grow with increasing environmental and economic damage and additional pressure on the health of the existing stock.

It is important for deer welfare that culling is done efficiently and humanely by people who understand exactly what they are doing and BDS runs a series of certificated courses to teach humane despatch. The Society also produces educational material showing why management is important to the welfare and conservation of deer. Working with government, countryside bodies, scientists, landowners and other stakeholders, BDS plays leading role in maintaining a healthy and sustainable deer population.

* Parliamentary Office for Science and Technology (POST) Note 325 Feb 2009

Close seasons

In order to protect the welfare of female deer and their young and male deer while their antlers are growing, the UK operates a close season system that specifies when the culling of different species may not take place. However, there may be circumstances where culling has to take place during the close season, such as the need to deal with injured or sick deer.

Species Sex Close Season England, Wales & N Ireland

Close Season
Scotland

Red deer Male 1 May - 31 Jul 21 Oct - 30 Jun
  Female 1 Apr - 31 Oct 16 Feb - 20 Oct
Red/sika hybrids Male 1 May - 31 Jul 21 Oct - 30 Jun
  Female 1 Apr - 31 Oct 16 Feb - 20 Oct
Sika deer Male 1 May - 31 Jul 21 Oct - 30 Jun
  Female 1 Apr - 31 Oct 16 Feb - 20 Oct
Fallow deer Male 1 May - 31 Jul 1 May - 31 Jul
  Female 1 Apr - 31 Oct 16 Feb - 20 Oct
Roe deer Male 1 Nov - 31 Mar 21 Oct - 31 Mar
  Female 1 Apr - 31 Oct 1 April - 20 Oct
Chinese water deer Male & Female 1 Apr - 31 Oct Not present so no close season
Muntjac* Male & Female No Close Season No Close Season

* There is no close season for muntjac as they breed throughout the year.


Further reading

Deer Management in the UK by Dominic Griffith (Revised 2011) Quiller Publishing
The Deer Stalking Handbook by Graham Downing (3rd edition 2013) Quiller Publishing
Deer Stalking and Management by Lewis Potter (2008) The Crowood Press
Practical Woodland Stalking by Graham Downing (2010) Quiller Publishing
The Deer Stalking Bible by Peter Carr (Revised 2nd edition 2014) Blaze Publishing Limited