New Forest deer culled by shooting parties amid population boom
‘GROUP shoots’ by Forestry England keepers and private land owners have been carried out in an attempt to control the New Forest’s booming deer population.
Post-pandemic numbers have increased dramatically, with the national population now estimated at around 2-million – the highest level for 1,000 years.
The situation in the New Forest was discussed at a recent meeting of the verderers’ committee, when David Redhead told colleagues he had seen a significant increase in the number of deer seen on his private land at Bartley and Hilltop.
Locally, numbers are managed by Forestry England staff who have been working in partnership with private landowners to co-ordinate deer culls.
A spokesperson for Forestry England said: “During the winter months, our local team made a considerable effort to work with neighbouring landowners on group shoots, which resulted in an overall increase in the number of deer culled.”
The huge population spike is attributed to a smaller-than-usual cull in 2020 – when demand for venison was greatly reduced by the prolonged closure of restaurants and hospitality venues.
Without management, deer numbers typically grow by 30% each year – equivalent to around an extra 600,000.
The FE spokesperson continued: “For many years our keepers have played a major role in managing the deer population on the Crown lands of the New Forest.
“Forestry England’s staff are highly trained and experienced in dealing with injured deer and population control, so that deer management is safe, effective and humane.
“The organisation is part of the national Deer Initiative, a partnership dedicated to high standards of sustainable management of wild deer.
“This year, all our venison went to local game dealers - supplying a healthy, sustainable food product from our woodland management.”
Without careful control, booming deer populations can led to overgrazing which adversely affects other species such as birds and insects that rely on dense vegetation for nesting and foraging.
“We understand that culling deer causes some concerns, but population control by culling is an essential part of our woodland management, as deer and their populations are expanding everywhere across England,” added the spokesperson.
“Where populations are unmanaged, herds can increase by between 15 and 30% per year and the rate of growth can be greater where there are more females than males.
“If too few deer are culled, the population can quickly reach the landscape’s maximum capacity and areas become overgrazed, reducing plant life below the forest canopy, which are food sources for insects and birds.”