For­get foxes, Bambi’s the new ur­ban men­ace

Daily Mail - - News - By Stephen Moss

We usu­ally think of deer as shy, wary crea­tures — hid­ing away in our woods and forests. But not any more. These ex­tra­or­di­nary pic­tures show a very dif­fer­ent side to these beau­ti­ful an­i­mals. ev­ery night, herds of wild deer sneak into cities and towns un­der cover of dark­ness — and hold real-life stag par­ties. as we sleep, they wan­der along our High streets and leafy av­enues, and feed in our gar­dens.

a few deer have al­ways been present around the ur­ban fringe. But their reg­u­lar ap­pear­ance in towns and cities is new. and it’s down to a huge rise in the uK deer pop­u­la­tion — which has more than dou­bled since the seven­ties, to reach two mil­lion an­i­mals.

The rea­son is the ab­sence of nat­u­ral preda­tors, a re­duc­tion in hunt­ing and shoot­ing of deer and the fact that they are stu­pen­dously fer­tile and bril­liantly op­por­tunis­tic. They have also ben­e­fited from a change in agri­cul­tural prac­tices such as in­creased plant­ing of win­ter crops and more wood­land cover.

The london Wildlife Trust lists sight­ings in bor­oughs in­clud­ing Haver­ing, Red­bridge, Croy­don, Hilling­don, Har­row, Kingston and sut­ton, and more.

Deer are now es­tab­lished in Bris­tol, Manch­ester and southamp­ton, ac­cord­ing to the Deer Ini­tia­tive, a char­ity set up to man­age the deer pop­u­la­tion.

They have also been found in Brighton, Taun­ton, Wal­sall, Mil­ton Keynes, sheffield, and even Glas­gow.

The two main species com­ing into our towns and suburbs are fal­low deer, which have im­pres­sive antlers and a spot­ted coat, and roe deer, which are smaller, with short-pronged antlers.

Many will say they add to the en­joy­ment of city life, bring­ing a beau­ti­ful an­i­mal once sel­dom seen by city dwellers to their doorstep. But it’s a real prob­lem.

The Deer Ini­tia­tive es­ti­mates be­tween 42,000 and 74,000 road ac­ci­dents an­nu­ally in­volve col­li­sions with deer. and it’s not just the deer that are harmed — the ac­ci­dents lead to 10 to 20 hu­man fa­tal­i­ties a year.

DEER also cause dev­as­tat­ing dam­age to pre­cious wood­land, moor­land habi­tats, and some of our best-loved wild crea­tures.

Nat­u­ral­ist Do­minic Couzens, au­thor of the de­fin­i­tive field guide, Bri­tain’s Mam­mals, says: ‘Few wild an­i­mals de­serve our sym­pa­thies less than deer. They look at­trac­tive, but are in­cred­i­bly de­struc­tive to sen­si­tive habi­tats and species.’

Per­haps the most de­struc­tive is the munt­jac — the small­est of Bri­tain’s six species. The size of a cocker spaniel, munt­jacs were brought here from China in the Vic­to­rian era, for parks and stately homes.

But they soon es­caped, and are now com­mon across east an­glia and south-east eng­land, and have spread to Wales and scot­land. Munt­jacs look cute — a cross be­tween a ter­rier and a hare — but feed by brows­ing the un­der­growth of our an­cient wood­lands.

This doesn’t just threaten pre­cious wild flow­ers, such as blue­bells, or­chids and oxlips; it also de­stroys scrubby veg­e­ta­tion where nightin­gales make their nests. as a re­sult, nightin­gales are in real trou­ble: since 1967, num­bers are down by more than 90 per cent — there are fewer than 7,000 singing males in the whole coun­try. and it’s not just nightin­gales — ground-nest­ing wood­land birds such as the wil­low war­bler and wood war­bler are also likely to suf­fer.

One munt­jac can strip a rose bush of its buds in min­utes, and make short work of any flowerbed.

In 2010 it was given the wildlife equiv­a­lent of an asbo, named — along with the Chi­nese mit­ten crab and Rus­sian ze­bra mus­sel — as one of the top six most dan­ger­ous in­va­sive an­i­mals in Bri­tain.

What’s the so­lu­tion? some con­ser­va­tion­ists have sug­gested rein­tro­duc­ing a top preda­tor, such as the lynx: a medium-sized cat that’s not been wild in Bri­tain in al­most 2,000 years. These shy, wood­land crea­tures prey on small-to-medium- sized deer, so would be per­fect for keep­ing roe deer and munt­jacs in check.

Culling is an­other op­tion. In deer parks na­tion­wide, an­i­mals are reg­u­larly killed to re­duce num­bers.

But for a long-term so­lu­tion, we need to eat more of them — and cre­ate a mar­ket so more are shot.

Veni­son — the flesh of any deer — is one of the health­i­est meats. It’s low in choles­terol, high in vi­ta­mins and min­er­als, and tasty, too.

If more peo­ple picked veni­son as the ul­ti­mate free-range al­ter­na­tive to beef, per­haps we could keep the deer pop­u­la­tion in check. That might help us to save the nightin­gale.

Lively res­i­dents for this place: A fam­ily set­tled in this East Sus­sex grave­yard — snack­ing on mourn­ers’ flow­ers

I’m sure we parked it here: This herd of stags look be­mused as they wan­dered onto an es­tate in Brent­wood

No cam­ou­flage: Try­ing to hide in a park... oh deer!

On the hoof: Red deer in the West Mid­lands

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.