Increasing deer numbers contribute to woodland bird species decline, according to report


The British Trust for Ornithology published the study which focuses on the relationship between deer abundance and habitat quality for birds.


By Nadine Burnham-Marshalleck

Increasing deer numbers has contributed to a decline in several woodland bird species, according to a study published by the British Trust for Ornithology this week.

The study focused on lowland England and the relationship between deer abundance and habitat quality for birds.

The report said: “Deer management plans, involving integrated exclusion and culling of deer, need to be co-ordinated on large scales.”

Deer in Richmond Park and Bushy Park are selectively culled during November and again in February.

According to Royal Parks, which manages both parks, the cull is necessary to prevent overpopulation that would increase beyond the parks’ capacity.

There are no natural predators within the parks, so human intervention is used to prevent starvation and habitat destruction.

“The parks are enclosed spaces with only enough grazing to sustain a finite number of healthy animals,” said a Royal Parks spokesperson.

“If the cull did not take place then deer would eventually suffer as a result of overcrowding and malnutrition, leading to starvation and death.”

However, campaigners gathered in Kingston on Saturday to campaign against deer culls in both parks.

 “I find it distressing that they claim it is humane when it clearly is not,” said campaign organiser Lesley Dove.

“So many people who live near the park have described to me hearing the cries of suffering, dying and frightened deer when the shooting is happening.”

Ms Dove had expected around 40-50 campaigners to attend, but only 19 arrived for Saturday’s protest.

However, Ms Dove remains confident large numbers of the community are behind her campaign to stop the culls.

She said her petitions have already collected well over 1,000 signatures and a further 300-400 on the online petition.

 The campaign group advocate contraceptive measures to control numbers instead of shooting the deer.

The Royal Parks spokesperson said there are currently no relevant contraceptives licensed for use in the UK.

Ms Dove believes Royal Parks have not done enough to put pressure on the decision makers to get the contraceptives licensed.

“I feel they are ignoring the facts about culling increasing birth rates and are not exploring the option of leaving the deer alone to reach their own naturally balanced numbers within their environment,” she said.

“The fact that they do well financially from the sale of the venison has its part to play in the decision.”

According to Royal Parks, injected contraceptives would need to be administered by humans and could distress the deer.

There are also concerns that the use of contraceptives through feed and not consumed by the deer could impact negatively on other species, including woodland birds. 

Royal Parks’ deer culls have been reviewed and agreed by the British Deer Society and other welfare organisations.

The Royal Parks spokesperson said: “We follow industry best practice to ensure that the herds remain healthy.”

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