Mar 7 2013
Experts are urging all-out war on deer which could see close to a million animals being shot each year in the UK.
The call to arms was made after new research showed that only by killing 50% to 60% of deer can their numbers be kept under reasonable control.
With total deer numbers conservatively estimated at about 1.5 million, it could result in more than 750,000 animals being shot every year.
Deer are said to be having a devastating effect on woodland, damaging farmers' crops, causing road accidents and threatening a danger to public safety in urban areas.
Shooting by trained and licensed hunters is the only practical way to keep their populations in check, according to Dr Paul Dolman, from the University of East Anglia.
"I don't think it's realistic to have wolves and brown bears in rural England," he said at a news briefing in London. "In the absence of natural predators, the only way to manage them is to shoot them."
Like foxes, deer are now starting to feel at home in urban environments, said Dr Dolman.
He said: "Studies have been done in Sheffield that show roe deer living in cemeteries. Muntjac deer will move into private gardens and allotments. Fallow deer are wide ranging - they live in woodland but come in to feed. There are housing estates in London where they've been known to graze on lawns in the evening.
"There have been no accidents yet but it's only a matter of time. These are large animals with sharp antlers. If you had one cornered in a school playing field, it could be nasty."
Dr Dolman led the first full-scale census of roe and muntjac deer populations across 234 square kilometres (145 square miles) of woods and heathland in Breckland, East Anglia. The results, published in the Journal of Wildlife Management, indicate that existing management strategies are failing.