Deer cull needed - wildlife experts

THOUSANDS of wild deer should be shot in Suffolk, experts claimed today.

BAMBI-style deer could be shot in their thousands in Suffolk, wildlife experts suggested today.

A bitter row is set to erupt after a countryside group said 10 to 20,000 of deer need to be shot in the region every year.

The creatures are regularly being spotted in Ipswich, Stowmarket and Bury St Edmunds - a muntjac deer once got into The Evening Star's press room - and The Deer Initiative has even taken calls from worried allotment holders who find their vegetables are being eaten.

And increasing numbers of the creatures are causing road accidents - two people died after crashes involving deer in Norfolk last year.

Deer have been living in Suffolk since pre-history, but their numbers have been on the rise over the last few decades - boosted by the arrival of the small muntjac which have adapted well to life in the wild in Britain.

The University of York undertook a survey five years ago that found that countryside deer are eating their way through £5 million worth of crops in East Anglia every year.

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Venison meat can be sold on by landowners, but campaign group Animal Concern has said there could be kinder ways of reducing their numbers than shooting them by using contraception methods, which in enclosed herds has involved using an animal version of the pill.

David Hooton, east of England liaison officer for The Deer Initiative, said: “They are eating onions, potatoes, carrots. Herds are roaming across landholdings.

“Urban deer are up and coming too. A number of allotment holders call to say deer are eating their crops, I tell them to put a fence around it.

“We do not want a general free for all with people shooting too many deer, we want sustainable numbers, a structured cull.

“The culls in the east of England need to be between 10,000 to 20,000 a year.”

Wildlife experts believe their numbers have hit the highest levels for 1,000 years.

One countryman said: “You can see deer all over the county and region. Just last week I saw three roe deer munching grass where the A12 meets the M25! Just recently I saw dozens of members of one herd in a field near Levington, so they are a real success story.”

Although they can be seen as a problem, deer remain an attractive feature of the Suffolk countryside for most people.

Ian Barthorpe, spokesman for RSPB Minsmere, said they recently ran a very successful red deer rut watching event last month which attracted 4,500 visitors.

He said: “Red deer cause us no problems, they are part of the natural ecology. The creature is incredibly popular and a red deer herd roams our very large site and do a good job managing the habitat.”

Red deer: The largest native British deer, England's largest herd wanders around east Suffolk, centred on the Minsmere nature reserve.

Roe deer: The only other true native British deer, much smaller than red deer and does not have large antlers.

Fallow deer: Introduced by the Normans in the 11th century for sport, it is now one of the most common types of deer and lives throughout East Anglia. It has the familiar spotted coat.

Muntjac deer: A herd of this Chinese deer was established at Woburn Abbey in Bedfordshire in the early 20th century and some of the creatures escaped and found the British climate very acceptable. Now the most common deer in East Anglia.

Chinese Water Deer: A few of these imported deer have been spotted in Suffolk, but they are very rare.

Sika deer were imported to Britain from Japan and have become wild in some parts of the country, but not in East Anglia.

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