Few will have missed the recent headlines concerning a mass cull of deer across the UK.

The headlines come in response to a report from the University of East Anglia compiled by Dr Paul Dolman. The 'Dolman report' has found that deer populations in the UK are running out of control, and in order to keep the population in check as many as 750,000 deer should be culled annually.

In typical fashion some of the popular press has seized on this report with typical sensationalism such that I have not seen since the headlines a few years ago concerning the shooting of a large red Stag in Exmoor, referred to as the 'Emperor of Exmoor'.

Reading headlines such as 'Bambi to be Turned into Burgers' and seeing images of deer with crosshairs super imposed on their heads are not helpful and are of course designed to whip up a sensationalist reaction to what is in fact a very real issue.

Anyone who has read the evidence or looked beyond their own nose on the issue of deer culling can be in no doubt that deer culling by professionally trained individuals is crucial in controling deer numbers and maintaining biodiversity in the British countryside.

The effect of extremely high deer numbers in areas such as Ashdown Forest and Thetford forest are evident. The continued over population of deer in such areas will have long term repercussions on other aspects of the countryside which are treasured  just as much as the deer themselves. I am talking here of the loss of Nightingales, Bluebells and Butterflies to site just a few examples.

The British Deer Society has advised caution over the report however like myself they have as yet to read Dr Dolmans findings. Previously the required annual culling estimates have been in the region of around 30%. It seems to me that any action to essentially nearly double this well established cull target to the suggested 50 - 60% based on the evidence of just one report would seem foolish. I am not saying that this figure is wrong however it needs to be further supported with studies and intelligent debate.

What is in my view most important is that there is no 'whip lash' reaction to this study. I am fearful that 'night culling' and 'out of season' culling could be called for when in fact this is not what is required. The solution is instead to my mind far more simple and involves better education of private landowners.

Deer when pressured in surrounding areas by shooting will retreat to areas of safety, and there are simply too many areas into which they can retreat. This is because many landowners are ignorant to the damage that high deer populations can cause and instead view these animals with a naive 'Walt Disney' perspective. In doing so they are far too resistant to qualified deer managers accessing their land.

Coupled with improved education pressure should be brought to bear from the government to encourage these private landowners to take a more wholistic view of the countryside and appreciate that their idealised view that nature will look after itself is in fact wrong.

Man has already shaped our countryside with wide scale farming and the extermination of the Wolf and Lynx. We must appreciate that we cannot now simply stand back and allow nature to take care of itself, we have instigated and influenced natures natural balance and now as self appointed caretakers of the countryside we have no option, and indeed a responsibility, to follow it through with further carefully applied intervention. 



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