The Island’s Deer in the Modern Era – 1


Populations of wild deer on the Isle of Wight have fluctuated since their re-appearance there after the end of the last ice age, with an apparent decline at the end of the 18th century leading to their probable disappearance around the middle of the 19th century.

Wild deer began to re-establish  during the second half of the 20th century, with both Roe and Muntjac being recorded in the 1970s. The former almost certainly swam from the mainland, Roe along with other deer species are occasionally seen swimming in the Solent and Southampton Water, and are not kept in captivity on the island. The Muntjac may have escaped from a tourist attraction which kept that particular species at that time, although others may have subsequently swum across too. By the 1990s there was a small herd of Fallow that were observed in Firestone Copse and on Lynnbottom Tip, whilst further to the west near to Calbourne  Red deer were to be found.

Red deer were farmed at various locations on the island during the last few years of the 20th century whilst Red deer, Fallow deer and Muntjac deer were kept at some tourist attractions but all of these establishments had closed by around 2000.  Captive populations of both Red and Fallow deer are still to be found in deer parks on the island today.

During the 21st century the presence of Red, Fallow, Roe and Muntjac have been recorded in the wild, with a new species, Sika, being noted in 2017.  Again Sika  deer do not appear to have been kept in captivity on the island but there are strong populations of this species resident in the woodlands around the  Beaulieu river, just a few miles away across the Solent. Sika deer are renowned for their swimming abilities which enabled them to colonise the Arne Peninsular in Dorset after their release on Brownsea Island in Poole harbour.

Muntjac deer appear to be the most widespread species,  despite their concerns to the contrary the public authorities have acknowledged that none of these deer are actually causing any environmental problems and although not numerous, wild deer continue to enrich the island’s woodland biodiversity.

If you have seen any deer please take part in the Isle of Wight Deer Survey  locations will be treated with strictest confidence.

British Deer Society Position Statement – Isle of Wight Deer

For periodic updates please visit Isle of Wight Deer Conservation or email

Thank you for your interest and support



Introduced or Native, Wild or Farmed?

Isle of Wight Deer – Introduced or Native, Wild or Farmed?

 The Isle of Wight’s wild deer have variously been described as introduced and deer farm escapees, but is this really true?

Wild deer in England, including the Isle of Wight are currently defined as:-

Natives* – Red and Roe deer

Introduced – Fallow deer and Muntjac deer .

So where have these deer come from?

Captive deer

Up until the end of the 20th century there had been several commercial deer farms trading on the island and tourist enterprises that held captive deer populations. Today captive deer may be found in deer parks near Newport and Chale.

Deer may have escaped from some of these establishments , if there are any remaining escapees that originated from an island deer farm left however, they would now be very old animals.

Migration from the mainland

Deer are very athletic creatures on land but what is less well known is that they are strong swimmers that will readily take to the water, especially if they have been disturbed. It is within the normal habits of males of the herding deer, Red Stags and Fallow Bucks, to travel great distances around the time of the rut in the autumn. With Roe deer the situation is slightly different as both sexes may travel significant distances to set up new territories, usually in the spring.

Even as long ago as the early 17thcentury Sir John Oglander remarked on the presence on his land of a Stag that had swum across from the New Forest whilst being hunted and in the modern era the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust have commented that deer are occasionally seen swimming across The Solent during slack tides. This was probably how the Roe deer whose tracks were seen on the island in 2013 got here as Roe are not usually kept in captivity.

Breeding in the wild

Whatever the origins of the parent stock it is clear from observation of deer with young that these animals are breeding in the wild, again a situation reflected on the mainland where expanding deer populations may be the descendants of both migrating and released deer.

So how do you tell the difference between a wild deer and an escaped farmed deer and why is it so important to know?

The Forestry Commission have helped to defined this:-

“deer that have escaped from captivity and are not visibly marked are considered feral wild deer”

What this means in practice is that unless it has a visible ear tag, collar or brand mark that shows that it belongs to someone and it is not held captive it is a wild deer.

So why is this so important?

Farmed deer like any other livestock always belong to the owner, even if the deer has escaped onto somebody else’s land. If you find such a deer on your property you are entitled to impound the animal and demand payment for any damage done by it from the owner. What you are not entitled to do is kill it and keep the carcase!

Wild deer on the other hand belong to nobody whilst they are still alive. The sporting rights holder of the land on which these deer are found has the right to take and kill these deer outside of the close season at which point the carcase becomes their property. This right may be delegated to another acting on their behalf, eg. a professional deer manager or a paying guest.

*Native species  (indigenous)

A species, subspecies or lower taxon, occurring within its natural range (past and present) and dispersal potential (i.e. within the range it occupies naturally or could occupy without direct or indirect introduction or care by humans)IUCN 2000

If you have seen some deer on the island please take part in the Isle of Wight Deer Survey  locations will be treated with strictest confidence. For periodic updates please visit Isle of Wight Deer Conservation or email

British Deer Society Position Statement – Isle of Wight Deer

Thank you for your interest and support

For more photos of deer on the Isle of Wight please see the Isle of Wight Deer Album

Farmed tagged deer

Farmed tagged deer

Roe buck

Untagged wild deer