March Blog: Norfolk Deer Management

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This month we talk to David Ward of Norfolk Deer Management about his work controlling the deer population here in Norfolk, and the impact the rising species has on the landscape if left uncontrolled.

What is the law around deer stalking? 

Deer are crepuscular which means that they are most active dawn and dusk. The law is that you can shoot deer up to one hour before sunrise and up to one hour after sunset. This to a large extent governs when I spend most of my time stalking.  

As it’s a seasonally dictated line of work, do you work all year round? 

In the winter you don’t need to be on the ground in the morning until around 6.30am and can finish around 5.30pm. However, in the summer it can mean a 3am start and/or 10pm finish. I stalk less in the summer! 

I stalk less in the summer is that it is open season for less deer.  

I also stalk less in summer is since my wife saves a list of jobs for me to do which I can’t put off any longer! 

What’s the process of deer management? 

The stalking is only a relatively small part of the job. Next comes the retrieval of the carcass (mental note to cull one closer to a track next time) and then the lengthy butchery to produce excellent loins, haunches, steaks, burgers etc. 

I only cull deer if the subsequent venison enters the human food chain so no demand for the venison means no deer culled.  

Interestingly only deer lawfully shot can enter the food chain so no roadkill. 

There’s a great deal of wild deer now isn’t there? 

I think most people realise that deer have no natural predators but are probably not aware that numbers can increase by 30% annually.  

Year 1 = 12 deer, year 2 = 16 deer, year 3 = 20 deer, year 4 = 27 deer and so on.  

We have a potential doubling of deer numbers every 3 years. A Fallow buck can eat 5kg of food every day. If you have a heard of fallow on your crops or in your woods, they can do extensive damage in a short time. 

Wow. That’s a lot. What kind of damage do they cause to woodlands and crops? 

Deer cause 74,000 road traffic accidents a year, with around 10-20 of these resulting in human fatalities. Many of these traffic accidents only occur because deer populations are forced to travel to new foraging grounds.  

Rising deer populations are causing up to £4.5 million of damage to woodlands, according to the Forestry Commission of Scotland; while Defra estimate around £4.3 million a year in damage to crops. 

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So, it’s an environmental issue, too? 

The damage to trees, shrubs and other plants can have a serious effect on local biodiversity, with many woodland birds losing valuable habitats due to deer overpopulations consuming or damaging trees in the area. 

And not good for the species, either? 

Where deer numbers become too great in a location then the health of the deer themselves becomes an issue. 

“We really need to do more to look after the trees we’ve got. They need ongoing care including protecting them from herbivores. We have more deer in the UK than we have ever had, they can quite dramatically damage forestry interests.” 

Chris Packham

What’s the best / worst thing about your job, and how did you begin doing it? 

Best is getting out and about in the countryside. Worst is, well larder work can be a tad boring and keeps me from getting out and about. 

How do you relax?  

I read, mainly fiction by authors such as Cormac McCarthy, Conn Iggulden, Bernard Cornwell, Tom Robb Smith. Plus my guilty secret is that I play Call of Duty. 

Too tip for anyone wanting to embrace the country life? 

Buy some good clothing and boots and go walking whatever the weather. 

David Ward 
Norfolk Deer Management 
Tel: 07561 306026