Massive cull to halt the rise of the 'urban deer'

A A A

Tens of thousands of wild deer are to be culled across the country after biologists warned that the animals are invading city parks, destroying woods and risking road safety.

English Nature, the Government's conservation agency, is discussing plans with agriculture ministers, the Forestry Commission and a small government-backed group called the Deer Initiative for a national programme to curb an explosion in numbers of wild fallow, roe, and muntjac deer by shooting them.

Although no total population figure exists, deer numbers in some counties have leapt tenfold since the early 1970s and experts expect their numbers to double again by 2012.

Herds are now spreading into city suburbs, urban parks and green belt areas – severely damaging woods and gardens, and undermining attempts to restore the country's forests.

Government agencies have run shy of admitting publicly that widespread culling is required, because of an expected outcry from animal lovers.

But later this week, English Nature officials will, for the first time, confirm that a national culling programme is needed because of the "dramatic" damage they are causing to woodland. And, at the same conference, experts will warn that deer also pose a growing risk to road safety.

A startling but unpublished survey by the Highways Agency estimated that, during the 1990s, incidents involving deer darting into roads, particularly at night, caused up to 40,000 accidents each year and lead to the deaths of about a dozen people.

These accidents, which cost the insurance industry about £40m a year, are most often in heavily forested blackspots where deer are most numerous, such as Cannock Chase and the New Forest. Roads in new towns such as Milton Keynes, where wooded areas were a major part of the town plan, or in urban sprawls such as Sheffield and Rotherham in South Yorkshire where woods and housing estates are close together, are likely to be the most affected.

"We expect the number of deer will double in the next 10 years, so we will see a massive increase in road accidents," said Simon Booth, director of the Deer Initiative, which is funded by English Nature and the Forestry Commission. "It's a sensitive and emotive issue. Everyone loves to see Bambi, but more deer need to be culled. We already have considerable damage to a whole range of habitats, agricultural damage and road accidents as a consequence of deer."

English Nature is trying to persuade Elliot Morley, the Agriculture minister, to pay for the culling programme, but his officials have not decided who will meet the large bill for hiring, training and equipping thousands of stalkers. But Mr Morley will hear this week that inmany woods, deer are devastating flowers such as oxlips and bluebells, rare woodland birds, and bramble bushes that provide valuable cover for animals such as the dormouse. "These deer populations need to be managed," said Keith Kirby, English Nature's forestry officer. "We need to reduce them quite substantially."

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Commercial Vehicle Sales Executive

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Working with a set process to achieve profitab...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Executive

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a number ...

Recruitment Genius: Facilities Coordinator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Facilities Coordinator is required to join a...

Recruitment Genius: Project Manager - Software House - PRINCE2, PMP

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A dynamic, customer oriented Pr...

Day In a Page

Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

Versace haute couture review

Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

No hope and no jobs in Gaza

So the young risk their lives and run for it
Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

Fashion apps

Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate