Deer in woodlands

We recognise and respect the concerns that have been expressed over deer control on Worcestershire Wildlife Trust’s nature reserves.

Friday 26th January 2018

Recent posts on Facebook and Twitter have suggested that pheasant rearing and shooting is taking place at Trench Wood nature reserve. We do not rear or shoot pheasants on any of our reserves. At Trench Wood this is taking place on privately-owned land, which is not accessible to the public, outside our nature reserve.

Others have alleged that culling is taking place for reasons other than nature conservation, such as income generation. No payment is made from the Trust and no income is generated. However, a good deal of expenditure is made on other control measures to mitigate damage by deer that reduce the need for culling. These include fences, which are used wherever possible to prevent grazing of woodland flowers, sapling trees and shrubs upon which other wildlife depends.

This is a widespread issue for woodland owners as deer numbers (of several species) have grown dramatically in recent years in many parts of the UK (including Worcestershire). Even some of our harshest critics recognise that this is causing harm to habitats and other wildlife. Many have suggested contraception as an alternative. Unfortunately, although this may be an option in the future, none are currently licensed for use in wild deer populations in the UK.

All of this is reflected in the Trust’s approach. Culling is only used for conservation purposes and as a last resort where other measures are not effective in controlling damage to habitats and other wildlife. Everyone involved would prefer to avoid culling. All decisions are subject to ongoing monitoring and are reconsidered annually.

Having allowed the debate to continue on our Facebook page for a week, and having reminded everyone of our house rules, we have been left with no choice other than to block contributors who are posting incorrect and abusive material. We are also removing our review functionality for the same reasons.

Monday 22nd January 2018

With no natural predators, high populations of wild deer are causing significant damage to the ecology and conservation of ancient woodlands, such as Grafton Wood, so we have had to take the difficult decision to control their numbers.

As conservationists, we only act when there are no alternatives and in accordance with a rigorous policy and procedure, which is summarised below.  Some people have raised the potential use of a contraceptive as an alternative to culling.  This may be an option in the future but at present none are licensed for use with wild deer populations in the UK.

The killing of wild animals is regarded by the Trust as a “last resort” measure to deal with legal requirements to control pests and/or serious conservation management problems. However, the Trust recognizes that in some cases short term and local pest control may need to be undertaken.

Eradicating wild animals which have, or are perceived to have, a seriously damaging effect on habitats or on other species can be addressed through the following guidelines.

(i) Decisions to kill any animal on conservation grounds should be based on the ecological impact of the species concerned: For example, its effects on species of conservation importance and/or habitats.

(ii) To proceed there should be a convincing case that killing the animal(s) concerned will address the management problem that has been identified and that killing is the only practical mechanism that would achieve this.

(iii) Any killing should be done legally and by the most humane practical method available.

(iv) Any proposal to undertake a killing programme should be adequately researched, be for a limited time-scale and have a monitoring mechanism built in. The decision to subsequently undertake a further phase should be based on the assessment of the effectiveness and continued relevance of the previous phase.

(v) Methods of regulating the population by other means: For example, by habitat manipulation, altering access to food supply, adjusting natural predation levels. The aim is to achieve a self-regulating system that controls the pest species at an acceptable level and should be frequently reviewed.
The same guidelines apply in the wider environment and on Trust reserves.