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If you want to know where you can see water deer or how far muntjac have spread across England you need a survey of deer distribution, and this is exactly what the British Deer Society have doing for many years with our deer distribution surveys.

As wild deer are secretive and notoriously difficult to count accurately, recording their physical presence has been a far better alternative, which allows the British Deer Society to identify trends in spread or decline.

As new technology becomes available existing methods can be blended with the new to deepen our understanding and produce more accurate information at a quicker pace. These are positive improvements however, the scale of surveying the whole of the UK remains challenging and requires the help of many willing volunteers.

BDS remain ready to meet that challenge as a better understanding of deer distribution and abundance is needed if the UK as a whole is going to support sustainable and healthy deer populations in balance with their environment.


red deer distribution map 2023

The British Deer Society regularly maps the presence of deer across the UK, providing a free resource which is highly valued by scientists, researchers, students and the media, as well as the general public.   Our surveys provide a unique look at the distribution of our six deer species, and being able to compare the latest results against previous records provides vital information on the changing ranges of our deer populations.

The maps that have been published as a result of surveys are purposely printed using a grid system of no smaller than 10 km squares to ensure that the exact locations of individual records are protected.  They are expressly not created or used to enable the management of deer using active control.

Each survey is run very much as a citizen science project which means that everyone is welcome to take part.  Resources are made available to assist with identification and results are carefully verified before they are published.  Individual reports are welcomed by the BDS. 

We have also been fortunate in being able to draw on the records of national organisations including the Forestry Commission, RSPB, Wildlife Trusts, and many others.  We have also been very pleased to work in partnership with the Mammal Society who have collected sightings through its Mammal Mapper App.

How Technology Is Supporting Future Deer Surveys

While the BDS will continue to conduct conventional surveys of deer presence, these are of course not able to tell us how many deer there actually are in the UK and the BDS finds it alarming that national policies for the management of deer have been developed against nothing more than anecdotal, limited and often outdated data.  The oft-quoted national deer population of 2 million, for example, is not based on any formal assessment and is little more than a broad estimate.  This is no way to manage a precious natural asset.

The emergence of new technologies, not least the use of drones for aerial counting and AI, has allowed us to develop exciting new plans for the future to address this shortfall in our knowledge

Investing in new technology is key but to do this we need your help.

If you believe deer deserve better and should be managed fairly and humanely then get involved by:

Starting from just £5 a month, by becoming a BDS member you can add your voice and help BDS speak up for deer. We also have options for students, families, and people living overseas.

If you operate a business or organisation why not consider becoming a corporate member and show your support for deer.

Visit our membership page to learn more

For any charity donations are key and BDS is no different. With your donation gift, we can do more research, education and training projects with deer welfare at the heart of everything we do.

Donating to help our surveys will allow us more resources to map key locations across the UK which will help build an accurate picture of our wild deer populations. This can be used to help make informed decisions on deer management and conservation in the future.

Visit our donations page

Are you a business or organisation looking to make a difference for deer?

There are many opportunities for you to work with a support the BDS from research projects, training, events and education programmes to photo competitions, auctions and prize draws. 

If you would like to find out more about becoming a sponsor please email

Results of the Deer Distribution Survey

Please click on the links below to view the mapped results from the 2023 survey for each deer species.

Identifying deer

watching by Kenneth SchulzeBanner

Each species of deer has unique characteristics that can help you identify them even from a distance. Our Deer App includes an overview of each species as well as photographs for you to use as a reference.

For more help identifying the six species of deer, you can download our deer species guides and posters.

Click on a link below to view the guides and posters:

Large Deer Species Posters
Small Deer Species

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